Grading the digital school lessons to be learned
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Grading the Digital School: Lessons to Be Learned. TRP-CSA Grand Rounds February 20, 2012 Professor Rod Harter. Overview of Today’s “Grand Rounds”.

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Grading the Digital School:Lessons to Be Learned

TRP-CSA Grand Rounds

February 20, 2012

Professor Rod Harter

Overview of Today’s “Grand Rounds”

  • We will discuss a series of New York Times articles that examine the intersection of education, technology and business as schools embrace digital learning:

    • Somini Sengupta: Online Learning, Personalized (published December 4, 2011).

    • Matt Richtel: A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute (published October 22, 2011).

    • Alan Schwarz: Mooresville School District, A Laptop Success Story(published February 12, 2012).


  • “In recent years there has been a major push to equip classrooms with technology, including laptops, overhead projectors, interactive white boards and tablets. It has become big business…”

  • “But there are questions about whether the investment is paying off.

  • “This series explores the push to digitize the American classroom and whether the promises are being fulfilled.”

Online Learning, Personalized by Somini Sengupta (New York Times, 12/4/2011)

  • “At least 36 schools nationwide are combining teacher-led lessons with computer-based lectures and exercises using a software program based on Salman Khan’s popular YouTube lessons.”

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Salman Khan in the offices of his company, the Khan

Academy, in Mountain View, California. His math

lessons are popular on YouTube.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Above left: Jesse Roe, a teacher in the Summit school in San Jose, CA, can use the teaching

software to monitor the math progress of students like Cheyenne Grant, 14, right.

Top, a lesson on the parts of a cell from a Khan Academy video on YouTube.

Comments on Online Learning, Personalized

  • “What I don't see emphasized is that Khan holds fixed not the time, but the mastery of any discrete unit. The variable becomes the time to learn and become proficient to the point that there is a foundation in every topic. The Academy advances a child's material only when they've tested for proficiency. For a teacher (or parent), the Academy provides powerful tools for monitoring child progress and is supportive of teaching in a class where students are progressing at different rates. Online algorithms sense when users (children) are becoming distracted, and can change (standard A|B testing) material accordingly.”“Do the kids like it? Mine (rather surprisingly) do. And it is effective. Major glitch - how to enroll younger (ages 9 and 11) since registration requires a unique Google account, available only to people age 13 and older. Not sure many parents would want to provide their children unrestricted access to their own Google ID.”

    (BA, Wilton, CT, 12/7/11)

Comments on Online Learning, Personalized

“The lecture format is very dull. The learn-to-mastery approach is right on, however. Imagine if you coupled real interactive learning with learn to mastery. The KA lectures on science leave completely out of the equation the lab component. This part is critical, crucial, and required to learn science. Just mastering lots of words and equations does not make for understanding science. Science is a mode of thought, not a bunch of memorization. Imagine if you could couple learning-to-mastery (and differentiated instruction) with interactive lessons and REAL online experiments, not those passive simulations that some attempt to pass of as science labs. If all you did was to add real online experiments with interactive data collection to KA, you'd be making a huge step forward…”“Perhaps, Salman Khan does not really understand science. After all, he's not a scientist. So, you can't blame him for this blind spot. He is helping student conquer difficult concepts just as simulations do….You can take all of his science courses, do very well, and still not understand science. He's left out the heart of science. That's OK for remediation but not for real learning. The solution is to add in real online science lab investigations using prerecorded real experiments and interactive, individual data collection….” (Harry, Los Angeles, 12/6/11)

Key Points for Discussion in the Online Learning/Khan Academy Article??

  • Arguments in support of their methods??

  • Arguments in opposition of their methods??

A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute by Matt Richtel (New York Times, 10/22/2011)

“Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise.”

“But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix…”

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The Waldorf School in Los Altos, California,

eschews technology. Here, Bryn Perry reads on a desktop.

Waldorf School philosophy

  • Waldorf Schools subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks.

  • Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.

  • Starting in the 8th grade, Waldorf Schools endorse the limited use of technology.

Comments on: A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute

  • “I went to a Waldorf grade school and will always be grateful for the foundations it gave me in learning, hands-on problem solving and creativity, and also for instilling in me a ongoing love and curiosity for art, science, history, cultures, language and philosophy. So many things I learned in those years have been invaluable to me in adulthood, and continue to enrich my life…”

  • “I've now worked for seven years in the technology sector, as an IT security professional and consultant, and I love my computers and gadgets in work and play. However, I agree with others that have said that technology in early learning and development would be a distraction and even a detriment if it becomes a crutch. What's important in early education is for children to develop their natural ability to learn in any context, through communication, interactivity and creativity. Here, Waldorf excels, and I would pay my last cent for my children to have that education too.”

    (Yogen Kushi, NYC, 10/23/11)

Comments on: A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute

“This article makes it sounds like you have to be some kind of genius to come up with interactive ways to teach. As a public school teacher, this is frustrating to me. All of the public school teachers I know work incredibly hard to find ways of teaching that will work. Sometimes this involves (fetch the smelling salts!) technology, if we're lucky enough to have it. Sometimes it involves modeling clay, if we're lucky enough to have it (Just kidding. We buy that ourselves, of course).”

“Trying to come up with ways to engage kids physically, socially and emotionally is not some new discovery they only have at special schools. Everyone is already doing it. The reason teaching is hard is not because no one has figured out the magic potion yet. The reason teaching is hard is because there is no magic potion. Or, rather, because you have to make the potion from scratch, every time, for every kid. It will never be fast or easy…”

(KS, Wilmington, DE 10/23/11)

Key Points for Discussion in the Waldorf School Article??

  • Arguments in support of their methods??

  • Arguments in opposition of their methods??

Mooresville School District, A Laptop Success Story by Alan Schwarz (New York Times, 2/12/2012)

  • This story is set in Mooresville, North Carolina, a “modest community” 20 miles north of Charlotte, that has “emerged as the de facto national model of the digital school.”

Mooresville School District, A Laptop Success Story by Alan Schwarz (New York Times, 2/12/2012)

  • Mooresville ranks 100th out of 115 districts in NC in terms of dollars spent per student, but now ranks 2nd in graduation rate and 3rd in test scores in the state.

  • Three years ago, the district adopted a policy that all 4,400 students from 4th through 12th grade would receive a MacBook Air laptop computer…

Comments on:Mooresville School District, A Laptop Success Story

  • “Greytown School in New Zealand introduced a 1:1 laptop programme to our Year 7/8 classes (G6/7) in 2009. What immediately became obvious was the improved engagement of the learners, the higher quality of the material presented, the greater communication between student/student and student/teacher, a greater willingness to share learning, an improved ability to take control of learning and in general far more independent learners. The programme has been on MacBooks up until the introduction of MacBook Airs this year. We have now progressed to wide use of Google Docs and Apps across the school. It has been a very positive initiative for all involved. Some of the comments that knock such programmes are really from people who prefer to drive Model A Fords. Sorry guys, the 21st Century is here to stay.”

    (Kevin Mackay, NZ, 2/14/12)

Comments on: Mooresville School District, A Laptop Success Story

“Education that heavily relies on technologies such as laptops is producing a generation of students incapable of prolonged, sustained intellectual thought. This is evident in my college students’ performance as:

  • The inability to write. Papers resemble texting and not the formal compositions traditionally taught. The writing I see is absolutely abysmal.

  • Poor behavior in the classroom. Unless professors continually stimulate or entertain students, their minds wander. They become impatient and begin to act out.

  • Unreasonable feelings of entitlement. Students now feel as if they are customers entitled to satisfaction with their purchased product, their education. They expect to be spoon fed. They are much too eager to blame their own poor performance on that of the professor…”

    Having my performance critiqued by my demanding, entitled, poorly prepared students is part of my job assessment. There is subtle and very strong pressure to lower academic standards to get better student reviews… The classroom is one of the last vestiges of sustained, prolonged, intellectual dialogue. Using laptops may produce higher scores on standardized tests, but it destroys this last vestige and produces graduates unprepared for the rigors and standards of traditional colleges.” (Jack, New Hampshire, 2/14/12)

Key Points for Discussion from the Mooresville Project Article??

  • Arguments in support of their program??

  • Arguments in opposition to their program??

Closing Thought for Today…Could This Happen in Texas??

  • What do you think of the New York City’s decision to release its ratings for 12,700 teachers? (NY Times, 2/14/2012):

    “A final effort by the United Federation of Teachers to block the city's release of thousands of teacher rating reports failed on Feb.14 when the state Court of Appeals refused to hear an appeal of a lower court decision to make the reports public.”

    “The union had sued the city to stop the release of the reports to the news media, as well as the general public, arguing that by releasing the ratings, the city would violate teachers' privacy rights. They also said the reports were exempt from disclosure rules because they were subjective and often inaccurate.”

    • Do you think the reports should be released? Why or why not?

    • What harm might come of releasing them?

    • Conversely, what is to be gained?

Thank you…

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