Archive for the ‘Online learning’ Category

Online learning: Before we rush down that path, make sure we know where we are going

I have been researching online/distance/virtual learning because our General Assembly was attempting to mandate it as part of the high school graduation requirements.

Last week, the bill was changed so online high school courses are not mandated, but encouraged.

And that was a good thing, given what I have been finding in talking to researchers and reading the research about online education.

I fear that uninformed investments in expanded online learning will lead Georgia down the same dead end that technology spending did 20 years ago. As a state, we wasted millions of dollars on impractical and unworkable technology because we allowed the vendors to tell us what schools needed.

School systems had computers they couldn’t operate. Stuff sat in boxes. Nothing connected. Lacking staff expertise, systems trusted the vendors, forgetting that their first allegiance was to profit margins.

Now, Georgia is at risk of wasting millions  on online learning because the well-funded and …

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Are we setting students on a path to careers that may not even exist in 20 years?

I have never understood the focus on “career paths” in middle and high school as I don’t think a 14-year-old is ready to pick a career.

Often, when middle and high schools offer specific career training, they lag behind the industry because they can’t keep up with the rapid changes from afar. Nor can schools afford the new technology so they are sometimes teaching kids with yesterday’s standards, equipment and practices.

The ideal career path models place high schoolers in internships and apprenticeships in the actual industries where they see what current practices are and where the technology is up-to-date. That makes sense and is happening in some places in Georgia.

Speaking of up-to-date, I was talking to a Georgia Tech professor who suggested that computer coding become a standard course starting in elementary school. He said everyone will have to deal with coding in their jobs, so computer languages should be regarded as a basic skill set that every child should …

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Are students returning to yesterday’s schools and ideas? Should blogs replace term papers?

As most Georgia students return to school today, I want to share a provocative essay about the way kids communicate today and what the future holds for them. (See earlier blog on how today’s classrooms should build on how kids prefer to communicate, including text messaging.)

Among the discussion points: Rather than assigning and judging college students on term papers, should we evaluate their writing skills on blogs and online forums where they often bring far more fervor and elegance?

The New York Times piece focuses on a new book by Cathy N. Davidson, co-director of the annual MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competitions.

In “Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn,” Davidson contends that 65 percent of today’s grade-school kids may end up doing work that hasn’t been invented yet. (Davidson  blog on these issues.)

The Times column explores a topic we have discussed here many times, whether …

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Pre-k stays full-day, but with fewer days. Fair compromise?

 Gov. Nathan Deal reversed course today by returning to full-day pre-k. (AJC file)

Gov. Nathan Deal reversed course today by returning to full-day pre-k. (AJC file)

The pre-k lobby is stronger than I thought. Gov. Nathan Deal just reversed his plan to cut the pre-kindergarten program from full-time to part-time, a decision that affected the 84,000 kids in the program and had some parents planning to resort to all-day child care instead.

The governor’s original plan also created despair among early childhood educators, who felt that quality pre-k was critical to Georgia’s aspirations to improve its education system.

“From day one we have worked tirelessly to make sure Georgia’s youngest scholars continue to benefit from the Pre-K program,” said Deal. “It is so important that we keep Georgia Pre-K a priority in order to ensure that students are school ready and on pace to read on grade level by third grade.”

Under Deal’s new plan:

  • The school year will be shortened from 180 to 160 days.
  • Class size will be increased to 22 students from 20. Since all …

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Georgia Supreme Court: Online courses qualify as “attending school”

Interesting Georgia Supreme Court ruling today that an online high school meets the definition of  “attending school.”

This case deals with child support, but I thought the legal finding on the virtual schooling was worth sharing. A lower court had ruled that the online school did not satisfy the child support provision that the child be attending school to continue receiving support from his father, but the high court disagreed.

Here is a summary of the ruling provided by the Georgia Supreme Court:

The Georgia Supreme Court has reversed a Chatham County court decision, finding that an 18-year-old’s participation in an on-line high school can satisfy the requirement that one must be “attending” school to continue to receive a parent’s child support.

“In light of the legislative and executive branches’ endorsement and regulation of on-line learning opportunities for Georgia students, we conclude that once a child enrolls in approved on-line courses in an effort to graduate from …

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More virtual schools likely for Georgia. Good news?

As expected, the Georgia Charter Schools Commission approved the four charter schools recommended by its interviewing panels. It also raised the per pupil funding for online schools, a move that is likely to lure more virtual enterprises to Georgia.

I have read a lot about virtual education, but still think we are in the discovery phase of whether online learning is effective, especially for younger students. To me, the models depend in great part on the willingness of the parents to essentially co-teach.

In its 2009 meta-analysis of studies on online learning, the U.S. Department of Education noted that online learning was effective, but cautioned: An unexpected finding was the small number of rigorous published studies contrasting online and face-to-face learning conditions for K–12 students. In light of this small corpus, caution is required in generalizing to the K–12 population because the results are derived for the most part from studies in other settings (e.g., medical …

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Bill Gates to teachers: Most difficult act of leadership is not fighting the enemy; it’s telling your friends it’s time to change.

Bill Gates spoke to the AFT on July 10th. Here is an excerpt of what he told the teachers:

Great teaching is the centerpiece of a strong education; everything else revolves around it. This is the main finding of our foundation’s work in education over the past ten years.

I have to admit – that is not where we started. Our work in schools began with a focus on making high schools smaller, in the hope of improving relationships to drive down dropout rates and increase student achievement.

Many of the schools we worked with made strong gains, but others were disappointing. The schools that made the biggest gains in achievement did more than make structural changes; they also improved teaching.

If great teaching is the most powerful point of leverage – how are we going to help more teachers become great?

In 2008 and 2009, our foundation partnered with Scholastic on a national survey to learn the views of 40,000 teachers on crucial questions facing your profession.

Teachers said in …

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Former DOE leader: What matters isn’t boldest reform, but most effective. And charter model is effective.

One of our recent discussions of charter schools led to this interesting e-mail from Andrew Broy, former DOE head of charter schools  and now president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. (Has anyone noticed this exodus of smart education leaders to other states?) Broy was responding to a blog by UGA professor Peter Smagorinsky.

Here is what Broy said:

I spent some time yesterday catching up on your blog and saw the article by the professor suggesting that all schools become charter schools or, more to the point, that all charter schools be granted the flexibility charter schools are able to utilize (if the waiver granted by the school’s authorizer permits it).

I am afraid that this leaves behind a critical aspect of chartering.  Flexibility is not granted merely for the sake of allowing more governing board/council discretion at the school level.  After all, that is what the failed site-based management initiatives were about 20 years ago and the reason they …

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Major review of No Child Left Behind. Kids moved ahead in math, but in little else.

A much-anticipated evaluation of the No Child Left Behind Act — the sweeping federal law that imposed consequential accountability on all states and schools — found strong evidence that math achievement improved in the earlier grades as a result of the decades-long law.

A new evaluation of President Bush's signature law No Child Left Behind found improvement to math performance in lower grades, but to little else.

A new evaluation of President Bush's signature law No Child Left Behind found improvement to math performance in lower grades, but to little else.

But  the controversial law had no impact on reading.

One of the challenges to analyzing the law has been separating out what changes in student performance were related to other variables including the improvements to the economy during the decade. All those moving parts made it hard for studies to offer any definitive claims about the law’s impact, said researcher Thomas Dee. (I just finished a phone interview with Dee and will be writing that for my Monday education column. I will also post here.)

Dee and his colleague Brian Jacob sought out a credible control …

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Wired from the womb: “We are looking at a generation that can’t not text.”

Top students tell me all the time that they watch television while doing their homework. This doesn’t surprise psychology professor Larry D. Rosen.

I had always imagined valedictorians and salutatorians buried in their books at night, never looking up from their chemistry homework and certainly not watching “Jersey Shore.”

But Rosen’s own daughter — valedictorian of her high school and now a Yale student — did her homework while watching television, listening to her iPod and trading text messages with friends, says Rosen, author of the new book “Rewired,” which examines how the iGeneration — children born in the 1990s and beyond — learn.

A longtime researcher on the impact of technology, Rosen says we are faced with a new breed of learners for whom doing more than one thing at a time is a way of life.

“This is a generation that has multi-tasked from birth and that is what they do from morning to night,” he says.

And that generation is now running headlong into an education …

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