Archive for the ‘Educational Technology’ Category

Sorry to play on the text acronym, but it seemed too appropriate. I am sure there are students who are saying “LMAO” at the fact that states, schools ,etc. are arguing over educational reform and specifically the value of online and blended learning options.  Giving students “options” seems like a political nightmare today. Recent articles in Maine’s Portland Press Herald butcher for-profit companies as well as leading political advocates for digital education.  The concern . .”divert[ing] precious public education dollars into profits and dividends while providing education of dubious quality.”

The quality of online learning is still debatable as true success indicators have yet to be defined systemically, but national groups like iNACOL are working diligently to define these outcomes-based indicators which should begin to help reshape some of the banter about sacrificing quality for profits.  Regardless of whether or not the for-profits are making a difference or just making a profit, why don’t we look at some of the existing challenges facing traditional learning :

  1. Retention rates still have not increased.
  2. Proficiency in some subject areas has declined.
  3. The graduation rate in numerous states is still below 70%.

Couple these with reduced budgets and increasing costs to deliver education that meets the needs of all learners (traditional sense of delivery) and one could surmise that the dubious quality exists in all delivery models.  Let me be clear, this is not an attack on teachers (because that is our first approach systemically).  I am simply stating that if we are going to bash online and blended learning as an innovation based upon poor quality, let’s look at ALL educational delivery in terms of outcomes and success factors. Sorry, I digress a bit.

My questions still remain . . .what do the students want? What are they saying about our educational system?

I have yet to hear much of the “student voice” in the debates taking place in the media about educational options – whether it is online learning courses, full time virtual options, new charter schools or a mix-match of these.  Parents are demanding change and liking educational reform to trying to turn a battleship around in a ditch – it ain’t gonna happen overnight! Many parents and students aren’t waiting around for politics to “work out” or for someone to research and study what is best for students – they are seeking options.  Options that provide personalized learning environments, customized learning paths, flexibility in schedules, flexibility in “seat time”, safe learning environments, etc. are all on the minds of students and parents. In an article from MLive in Michigan, students stated that the top 5 things they want in school are:

  1. Real world application and relevancy
  2. Choice
  3. Innovation
  4. Teacher mentors
  5. Interactive technology

I applaud Louisiana’s bold move to a “course choice” model for students.  While it is garnering attack from teacher unions and naysayers, the Governor and State Superintendent have listened to the student voice(s) and are providing some choices (options) in their academic careers.  Other states are following suit to provide options for students. Before we attack every innovation that occurs just because we are afraid of change or we have vowed to protect the “system”, let’s consider the student’s needs and thoughts on what they want.  I have witnessed situations where a student made a C in an online class and it was seen as a negative as far as performance – in truth, the student needed the course to graduate and the school couldn’t offer it to meet the need of the student’s schedule – so was it effective? If the option was not to graduate on time or to graduate with a C – – I would say chalk one up for options!

Let’s start looking at data such as Project Tomorrow’s reports from Speak Up surveys and determine what options we can provide based upon student needs and wants!

In closing, I am currently working on an Ed.D. and the program has allowed me to pick and choose courses and delivery methods, so personally I am LMAO!!

Doctors prescribe medicine based upon their knowledge of diseases, viruses, illnesses, etc.  They tend to know what is best to combat the sickness.  The only true choice we have in the matter is which doctor or in some cases (based upon past experiences) which forms of the medicines we’d prefer.  Ultimately, we are prescribed the remedy with little choice but to accept it as it will lead to getting well.

In 2004, America seemed to be in a medical malpractice “crisis“.  With all the concerns arising from this, America began to (and still may) question the prescriptions (treatment/diagnosis, etc) coming from medical providers.  Now, I am not here to debate the quality of our medical practices, but merely to set the stage for the bigger context of prescription vs. subscription.

Enter the “net” . . .

Americans began their trek to research medical advice and gain a better “education” prior to determining how they would proceed with treatment and/or at minimum who to go to (aka “choice”).  Sites such as http://www.webmd.com/ and http://www.healthline.com/ emerged to provide education to Americans on medical and health related issues.  Thus began the “subscription” approach to medicine.  Open content helped to inform people of their options/choices.  People “subscribe” (not pay per se, but “choose” to get info from them) to these sites to gain knowledge and feel more like they have a voice in their medical/health options. As Americans wish to become better informed and have more control over their medical/health choices, this trend has begun to invade education.  I use the term invade simply to imply that some may not want to see this trend, but realistically, it’s here, regardless.

The traditional industrial model that our education system is built on is steeped in a “prescriptive” philosophy.  We rely on politicians, educational leaders and teachers to basically tell us what we need to know in order to become productive citizens in today’s economy.  “Here is what you need to know . . .”, “Here is how you will learn it . .”, “You need to be doing it this way . . .”, I could go on and on right?  This philosophy is also seen in our higher ed structures as well.  We prescribe to teachers a model for how they should teach, what they should teach, etc. with very little consideration for their voice/input.  Even the PD models in many schools still reek of  “this is what you should know/be doing . . . ” and teachers aren’t given ample time/opportunity to provide feedback and more importantly, input for change.  Our students feel like school is “boring” because they have very little choice in how and what they learn. Teachers feel like because of standardized testing, they are told what to teach and how to teach it.  This trickles down and students become very disengaged.  Many of us may feel like we know what is best and that we should “prescribe” the what, when, where and how of education. But if we look at the trends . . .personalized education where students have choices and can “subscribe” to the what, when, where and how; is a model that has merit.

We are in the “subscription” mode as learners. We choose who to follow (subscribe to) on Twitter, we choose which RSS feeds we want to glean our knowledge from, and we set our preferences for style, medium, etc.  A great group of though leaders is working to define models of “learning circles” for teachers – follow #LCU hashtag for more.  These models point to the fact that learners (students, teachers, etc.) want to subscribe to knowledge versus have it prescribed for them. Take a look at some other national initiatives in open source “subscriptive” learning that may prove to be models for educational transformation.

MIT – http://chronicle.com/article/MIT-Will-Offer-Certificates-to/130121/?sid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en
Floating University – http://www.floatinguniversity.com
The Conversation – http://theconversation.edu.au

While I don’t see an immediate trend to Americans subscribing to their own treatments/medicines, I do think we’re moving to become much more informed on the “what, when, where & how” to proceed.  As for education, students are demanding the options and want a more subscription based approach to their learning.  Does this devalue the role of the teacher? principal? education administrator? Not at all . . . I think our role(s) will just have to be more along the lines of a marketeer . . .we have to have product and “stuff” that makes students want to subscribe to what we have to offer. Guiding the learning still resides behind all of the open source “stuff”, it’s call curation.  We are becoming curators of knowledge versus prescriptive “owners” of all the knowledge.