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By Daniel Willingham "It’s time to admit we don’t know what we’re doing when it comes to educational technology.
We’ve already had one round of chagrined admissions. About 10 years ago, the common practice was buying hardware and dropping it into schools: Every student got a laptop, perhaps, or every classroom got a computer-driven whiteboard. Policymakers finally realized that such purchases don’t boost student achievement or create a new generation of programmers.
Better planning is now more common, but it’s time for chagrined admission 2.0.
The problem is that tech purchasing decisions are usually not much better informed than your decision about whether or not to buy a smartwatch. History shows that perfectly sensible intuitions about how devices ought to work in classrooms often prove wrong.
Consider Amazon’s recent $30 million contract to sell e-books to New York City schools over a three-year period. Reading on a screen would seem to be little different than reading on paper. Maybe even better: They can integrate video and audio, for example, and content can be updated easily. But in study after study, reading comprehension is actually a little worse on screens. That’s why even younger readers with lots of screen-based experience say they prefer paper."...
"Digital learning tools that fit well within existing classrooms and don't disrupt the educational status quo tend to be the most widely adopted, despite their limited impact on student learning, an analysis of ed-tech products designed for higher education concludes.
Experts say that pattern is also reflected in K-12, raising tough questions about whether many ed-tech vendors' emphasis on quickly bringing their products to scale is actually hampering the larger goal of improving schools.
"There is a lot of research showing that more comprehensive technology interventions tend to have more positive results in both sectors," said Barbara Means, the director of the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International, the nonprofit research center that conducted the new analysis. "To create an education technology tool that can have an impact, but also be adopted in many classrooms, requires thinking about supports for teachers, resources for instruction, and rethinking the way time is used within schools."
Those conclusions are drawn from a fresh analysis of data SRI gleaned while evaluating the effectiveness and growth curves of 29 digital learning tools funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2010. The products included complete online courses, peer-support platforms, and predictive analytics tools. Most had no statistically significant impact on student outcomes. But the number of users that each product attracted varied widely, from as few as 181 to as many as 130,000.
The SRI researchers found some evidence that when it comes to ed tech, effectiveness and scale may actually be inversely related: The more effective the tool, the smaller the scale at which it was adopted, and vice versa.
They also identified three common factors among those products that scaled most rapidly: a promise of cost savings for schools, no requirements for face-to-face training, and an ability to be easily integrated into existing teaching and learning practices.
Those traits reflect the dominant Silicon Valley business approach of seeking to quickly gain as many users as possible—a strategy that Means described as particularly ill-suited for schools."...
"This was/is a “catalyst” KINDERGARTEN classroom in Mentor, Ohio (pic from 2014). This picture truly gives me the chills. It is void of anything vibrant, enticing, or living. It is so deathly dismal grey. It is so opposite of how my 4-5s classroom looks— gratefully! The above appears to me like children have been implanted into some unnatural, doldrum business office setting. It looks like kinders sitting in on some corporate board (bored) meeting.
This is Tom Vander Ark’s ‘branchild.’ He ultimately sees classrooms just like this, with minimal amounts of teachers who would be translated into “facilitators.” Their jobs would be to guide the children towards online programs which would suit children’s individualized learning plans. The teachers are to become robotic sales clerks essentially for all of the products Vander Ark has for sale related to online learning. Information in turn would be documented at each and every keystroke, into the students’ “digital portfolio backpacks.”
"As laptops become smaller and more ubiquitous, and with the advent of tablets, the idea of taking notes by hand just seems old-fashioned to many students today. Typing your notes is faster — which comes in handy when there's a lot of information to take down. But it turns out there are still advantages to doing things the old-fashioned way.
For one thing, research shows that laptops and tablets have a tendency to be distracting — it's so easy to click over to Facebook in that dull lecture. And a study has shown that the fact that you have to be slower when you take notes by hand is what makes it more useful in the long run.
In the study published in Psychological Science, Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles sought to test how notetaking by hand or by computer affects learning.
"When people type their notes they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can," Mueller tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can't write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them."
Mueller and Oppenheimer cited that notetaking can be categorized two ways: generative and nongenerative. Generative notetaking pertains to "summarizing, paraphrasing, concept mapping," while nongenerative notetaking involves copying something verbatim.
And there are two hypotheses to why notetaking is beneficial in the first place. The first idea is called the encoding hypothesis, which says that when a person is taking notes, "the processing that occurs" will improve "learning and retention." The second, called the external-storage hypothesis, is that you learn by being able to look back at your notes, or even the notes of other people.
Because people can type faster than they write, using a laptop will make people more likely to try to transcribe everything they're hearing. So on the one hand, Mueller and Oppenheimer were faced with the question of whether the benefits of being able to look at your more complete, transcribed notes on a laptop outweighs the drawbacks of not processing that information. On the other hand, when writing longhand, you process the information better but have less to look back at.
For their first study, they took university students (the standard guinea pig of psychology) and showed them TED talks about various topics. Afterward, they found that the students who used laptops wrote significantly more words than those who took notes by hand. When testing how well the students remembered information, the researchers found a key point of divergence in the type of question. For questions that asked students to simply remember facts, like dates, both groups did equally well. But for "conceptual-application" questions, such as, "How do Japan and Sweden differ in their approaches to equality within their societies?" the laptop users did "significantly worse."
The same thing happened in the second study, even when they specifically told students using laptops to try to avoid writing things down verbatim. "Even when we told people they shouldn't be taking these verbatim notes, they were not able to overcome that instinct," Mueller says. The more words the students copied verbatim, the worse they performed on recall tests.
And to test the external-storage hypothesis, for the third study they gave students the opportunity to review their notes in between the lecture and test. The thinking is, if students have time to study their notes from their laptops, the fact that they wrote down more extensive notes than their longhand-writing peers could possibly help them perform better.
But the students taking notes by hand still performed better. "This is suggestive evidence that longhand notes may have superior external storage as well as superior encoding functions," Mueller and Oppenheimer write.
Do studies like these mean wise college students will start migrating back to notebooks?
"I think it is a hard sell to get people to go back to pen and paper," Mueller says. "But they are developing lots of technologies now like Livescribe and various stylus and tablet technologies that are getting better and better. And I think that will be sort of an easier sell to college students and people of that generation."...
"An ed-tech executive was one of a series of witnesses summoned to an Alabama courtroom this week, as state prosecutors pursue a corruption case against one of the state's most powerful politicians.
Michael Humphrey, executive vice president at Edgenuity, testified in the ethics trial of state House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who is accused in a 23-count indictment of using his clout to attract business for companies he leads.
Humphrey testified that he hired Hubbard on a $7,500-per-month consulting contract to connect him to legislative leaders in other states, as Edgenuity tried to sell digital courses.
Humphrey testified that the House Speaker's work for Edgenuity included calling the then-speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives, Bobby Harrell. It also included reaching out to Auburn University's athletics director in order to arrange a meeting with a NCAA executive as the company sought permission to sell its products for college athletes, according to the AP.
Hubbard, a Republican, was indicted in 2014 on 23 counts of felony ethics violations on allegations of using his political power to attract business for his companies--the Auburn Network Inc. and Craftmaster Printing.
Based out of Scottsdale, Ariz., Edgenuity provides blended learning programs and virtual instruction for students in grades 6-12."
"Parents in Newark are wondering whether their children have been exposed to dangerous amounts of lead. Since early March, more than half of the 67 district schools have tested positive for high lead levels in the drinking water, and documents shows that the school administration knew about the problem for more than a year.
Last month, Ivelisse Mincey received an automated phone call announcing that lead had been found in the drinking water at Abington Avenue School in Newark, where her 12-year-old son Adam attends. “I put down the phone in an absolute panic,” Mincey said. “My son drinks water from the fountain all day long and now I have no idea whether he is going to have health problems.” Like other Newark parents, Mincey wants to know why the problem wasn’t fixed sooner. “I feel betrayed that the school district didn’t come to me to let me know about this,” she said. “They should have protected my son.”...
"I have discovered the phrase “proof points” recently. I had known of “proof for existence” in arguments about God. I had known about the history of math proofs. But “proof points” in marketing digital technologies to schools, well, that was new to me.
So I looked up “proof points” and found that they are a favored marketing tool.
“Proof points are one of the four elements of a classic brand positioning, and are important for making points of difference believable.They provide credibility and support for the Key Points of Difference.”...
“Proof points” are common when the subject turns to technologies in schools. Here is one example of the extent that selling new technologies have seized the school market–$nearly 700 billion for K-12 schooling. Proof points: Blended learning success in school districts, is a publication that summarizes 12 case studies of schools and districts in the U.S. “Each short profile,” the article says, “highlights key details in the district’s blended-learning strategy, the EdTech products used, and promising results in the form of test scores and graduation rates.”
Here are a few of the case studies the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovations, an organization devoted to spreading “blended learning,” published last year.
Spokane, Washington, has developed and implemented blended learning in numerous programs across the district with a goal of increasing graduation rates and college and career readiness. Since implementing blended learning, the district’s graduation rate has increased from 60% in 2007 to 83% in 2014.
Hamilton County Community Unit School District 10, McLeansboro, Illinois, began offering blended learning during the 2012–13 school year as a way to shift its instructional model from whole-group instruction to personalized learning. An evaluation based on NWEA MAP scores shows students in grades using blended learning outperforming students in grades not using blended learning.
Spring City Elementary Hybrid Learning School, Spring City, Pennsylvania, uses a three-station Station Rotation model of blended learning. It has seen improved test scores in math, reading, and science since implementing its blended-learning program.
A casual reading of these three (see the other nine to determine how typical these are) make clear that the introduction of some form of “blended learning” caused scores and high school graduation rates to improve. By combining them in the same sentence–“blended learning” and improved metrics–the clear intent is not merely suggestive but forcefully states that one led to the other. That kind of sliding from description to “proven” solution is common in the ads we see when Googling as ads appear in our peripheral vision. Or watch TV ads for miracle drugs. I assume that the metrics on improved test scores and graduation rates are accurate but, (and here is a huge “but” that should be capitalized) other factors can explain such improved outcomes than the onset of “blended learning.”
Not coming into play are key factors that have long influenced teacher and student outcomes. Consider the demography of students in families in the school and district. Or previous non-technological reforms of a decade or longer that altered existing curriculum, provided community services, and focused on building teacher expertise and skills. Or sustained leadership over a decade. Or altered pedagogies. And there are others yet all go unmentioned in the reductionist “proof points.”....
"Americans were left reeling in recent days at the sight of grown men who aspire to George Washington’s job mired in what can only be described as potty talk. “Mr. Rubio suggested Mr. Trump had urinated in his trousers,” The New York Timesarchly noted. The insults went downhill from there, as Trump defended the size of his genitals during a subsequent live presidential debate.
The obvious conclusion is that grownups are acting like preschoolers. But this characterization of young children is actually quite misleading. When given the opportunity, preschoolers are capable of far greater generosity and respect for their peers and sophistication of thought than people have seen on display this election season.
Moreover, in today’s “no excuses” educational climate, they are held to higher performance standards, too. In fact, there’s a troubling kind of role reversal going on in American society today: As adults race to the bottom with childish antics that would have imperiled careers and marriages in previous eras, young children are the ones being forced to act like the adults."
"Even proponents of educational technology admit that a lot of software sold to schools isn’t very good. But they often highlight the promise of so-called “adaptive learning” software, in which complex algorithms react to how a student answers questions, and tailor instruction to each student. The computer recommends different lessons to different students, based upon what they already know and what they still need to work on.
Wonderful in theory, but does it work in practice?
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sought to find out, and gave money to 14 colleges and universities to test some of the most popular “adaptive learning” software in the marketplace, including products from a Pearson-Knewton joint venture, from a unit of McGraw-Hill Education called ALEKS and from the Open Learning Initiative. Most of the universities combined the software with human instruction, but a few courses were delivered entirely online. Almost 20,000 college students and 300 instructors participated in the experiment over the course of three terms between 2013 and 2015. It’s probably the largest and most rigorous study of adaptive learning to date. Then Gates hired SRI International, a nonprofit research institute, to analyze the data. (The Gates Foundation is among the funders of the Hechinger Report.) This story also appeared in U.S. News & World Report.
What SRI found was sobering. In most cases, students didn’t get higher grades from using adaptive-learning software, nor were they more likely to pass a course than in a traditional face-to-face class. In some courses the researchers found that students were learning more from adaptive-learning software, but even in those cases, the positive impact tended to be “modest”. The report is here.
“I wouldn’t characterize our report as cynical, just cautious,” said Barbara Means, director of the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International and one of three authors of the report."...
"...Rather than creating a new generation of pleasure-readers, forcing kids to keep track of their reading time can turn it into a chore."...
By Erica Reischer
"Children who read regularly for pleasure, who are avid and self-directed readers, are the holy grail for parents and educators. Reading for pleasure has considerable current and future benefits: Recreational readers tend to have higher academic achievement and greater economic success, and even display more civic-mindedness.
But recreational reading is on the decline. According to a National Endowment for the Arts report based on longitudinal data from a series of large, national surveys, the rate at which teens voluntarily read for pleasure has declined by 50 percent over the last 20 years. Reading now competes for children’s time with many other alluring activities, including television, social media, and video games. Most leisure time is now spent in front of a screen.
To ensure that kids are spending at least some time every day reading, classrooms across the country have instituted student reading logs, which typically require kids to read for a certain amount of time—about 20 minutes—each night at home and then record the book title and number of pages read. In some cases, parents must also sign this log before their child turns it in to the teacher."...
"The way we understand our intelligence and abilities deeply impacts our success. Based on social science research and real life examples, Eduardo Briceño articulates how mindset, or the understanding of intelligence and abilities, is key. When students or adults see their abilities as fixed, whether they think they're naturals or just not built for a certain domain, they avoid challenge and lose interest when things get hard. Conversely, when they understand that abilities are developed, they more readily adopt learning-oriented behaviors such as deliberate practice and grit that enable them to achieve their goals. But this belief is itself malleable, and there are clear actions we can all take to establish a growth mindset and enable success for our children, our peers and ourselves.
Eduardo Briceño is the Co-Founder and CEO of Mindset Works (http://www.mindsetworks.com), an organization that helps schools and other organizations cultivate a growth mindset culture. The growth mindset was discovered by Stanford professor and Mindset Works co-founder Carol Dweck, Ph.D., and is described in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (http://www.mindsetonline.com). Mindset Works offers Brainology, an innovative blended learning program to teach a growth mindset to students, teachers and schools, as well as teacher professional development and tools (http://www.mindsetworks.com/brainology/)."
"Microsoft's new AI chatbot went off the rails Wednesday, posting a deluge of incredibly racist messages in response to questions.
The tech company introduced "Tay" this week — a bot that responds to users' queries and emulates the casual, jokey speech patterns of a stereotypical millennial.
The aim was to "experiment with and conduct research on conversational understanding," with Tay able to learn from "her" conversations and get progressively "smarter."
But Tay proved a smash hit with racists, trolls, and online troublemakers, who persuaded Tay to blithely use racial slurs, defend white-supremacist propaganda, and even outright call for genocide.
Microsoft has now taken Tay offline for "upgrades," and it is deleting some of the worst tweets — though many still remain. It's important to note that Tay's racism is not a product of Microsoft or of Tay itself. Tay is simply a piece of software that is trying to learn how humans talk in a conversation. Tay doesn't even know it exists, or what racism is. The reason it spouted garbage is that racist humans on Twitter quickly spotted a vulnerability — that Tay didn't understand what it was talking about — and exploited it.
Nonetheless, it is hugely embarrassing for the company."...
Go to just about any elementary school in this country and you will see teachers with stopwatches assessing “nonsense word fluency.” When I first heard the term, I though someone was pulling my leg. Fluency in reading, I had always thought, was about meaning, about understanding. It had nothing to do with nonsense.
But children are tested regularly in 60-second bursts on meaningless letter combinations — often pushed to go faster than one per second. Fluency equates to speed. I understand the importance of decoding skill, and I’m sure that some kids — the sprinters — might like this form of racing. But I wonder what image of reading we are passing on, and how the stragglers feel.
This obsession with speed has not always been dominant. The McGuffey readers encouraged patience and repeated readings that would lead to oral performance. But in the 1920s, reading educators argued that oral reading was too slow and inefficient—in fact, students needed to cut themselves off from any connection to sound and oral performance.
One popular guide at the time advised teachers to have students — literally — hold their tongue while reading, thus preventing sounding out words. Another technique was to bring a piece of wood to class and bite down on it while reading. Another was to allow them to chew gum while reading. If sound was turned off in these ways, students could process bigger visual chunks.
I myself am a slow reader. Always have been. I enter a book or essay carefully, trying to get a feel for this writer/narrator/teller that I will spend time with. I hear the language, feel the movement of sentences, pay attention to punctuation, sense pauses, feel the writer’s energy (or lack of it), construct the voice and temperament of the writer.
If I am going to spend time with an author, I want to hear his or her voice — I want some human connection.
I have therefore joined the slow reading movement. Like the slow food movement, it is about more than just slowing down, though that is part of it. It is about an intimacy with authors; it is about paying attention, about caring, about rereading and savoring what we read. It is about finding the right pace. About pleasure more than efficiency."...
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