To “Dream Big” Was More Than A Chromebook in Every Students Hands

By: Ernie Delgado
St. Joachim, nestled in a sleepy South Orange County neighborhood, serves a diverse student population.  St. “J’s” is one of the most coveted schools in the area, and caters to neighborhood kids, local Hispanic families and other families who want a high quality Catholic education.  Another draw is their energetic Principal, Sister Kathleen Marie, who is a veteran administrator with a unique vision for her school.  She got the parents to “dream big” and they did.  In just two years they are now a premier 1-to-1 Chromebook equipped school.

“When I came here parents really wanted their children to grow.  There was a need for growth.  They were willing to listen and to buy into what we were proposing and we knew that we had to think about the future and to dream big!  We have certain learning expectations for our students and one of them is to be a lifelong learner.  And part of that, one of the attributes of that is to use technology for learning, for communication and for enjoyment.  And I want them to do that but I also want them to be filled with the proper values as they go out into the world and out into high school to use technology responsibly.”  Sister Kathleen Marie, Principal, St. Joachim Catholic School Costa Mesa, CA

The big dream was developed by a focused group of parents and teachers who wanted to be sure that their students were learning more effectively with technology and, more importantly, that their students would have the skill sets to be prepared for their future in high school, college and career readiness.  They wanted to be sure their students would have the skills to compete on a global scale and have leadership qualities.  Before their plan was complete they decided that the Samsung Chromebook was the best choice for them.  They were less expensive to acquire, they were easier to manage and the productivity software they needed was free. Google also sends out regular updates.  Every time you restart the machine it becomes a better machine.  There is no need for traditional software upgrades.
To be sure that the technology would be used effectively, the committee with the leadership of Sister Kathleen searched and found us at BEYOND Technology Education (BTE) based in Southern California.  The key elements of the partnership included the creation of a SWIMGrid technology plan that clearly outlined the timelines and resources required for five key planning areas.  Those areas include:

  1. Teachers – assessment, training and support for teachers through meaningful training and modeling so they can learn best practices on technology use for their grade level or subject.
  2. Students – evaluate and equip students with the technology skills needed to be better students today and technologically savvy global citizens for tomorrow.
  3. Curriculum – address classroom lesson plans and integrate relevant technology projects that also use the most current presentation tools and web 2.0 methods to improve classroom instruction.
  4. Infastructure –   evaluate the schools technology infrastructure and make the necessary additions as the school goes from a simple computer lab environment, to a mobile lab environment to an efficient one-to-one device environment for select grade levels.
  5. Assessment and Project Management – developing the plan which includes periodic assessment of goals and makes sure the entire project stays on task.

As a result of our partnership, the school is up to speed in the above five areas and avoided the pitfalls that have plagued many high profile 1-to-1 rollouts across the country.  Using this framework ensured that the teaching staff, often the bottleneck in a technology rollout, was introduced to the “three C” concept.  In order for teachers to effectively use technology in the classroom they need to acquire the “three Cs”: confidence, competence and content.
Today, the third of a four-year program, the school has saved tens of thousands of dollars with Chromebooks.  When comparing the costs of the SWIMGrid approach with a variety of popular mobile technology devices, the Chromebooks have proven to be a very capable learning tool.  When evaluating the Chromebook version of the SWIMGrid model, the cost is roughly 35% less than a comparable iPad program.
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In addition to hundreds of technology infused Common Core lesson plans developed in partnership with the classroom teachers, each classroom has also been upgraded with presentation equipment.  Everything is modeled for the classroom teacher by a Technology Integration Specialist provide by BTE.
The value of long term planning with the SWIMGrid framework is that there are opportunities for periodic assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of the program.  The school also has a designated project manager provided by BTE.  This allows us to continue building on the success stories of the teachers and to also plan for the future.  The great thing about technology is that there is always something new on the horizon that will be amazing for teachers and students.
Ernie Delgado is BEYOND Technology Education Co-CEO and Co-Founder.

Hey Kansas: Don’t Cut Online Learning; Expand Course Choice

The  Kansas House Standing Committee on Appropriation is looking for ways to save money.  They are considering another 50% cut in the reimbursement rate for full time online learning which (at about $5700 per student) is already funded at about half of traditional K-12.  The problem with that idea is that all full time schools–virtual and traditional–have the same cost structure for instructional staffing, student supports, transcript management, technology, and administration.  With full time online learning there may be an opportunity to save 5% but not 50%.
It is quite possible save money by switching from a small Advanced Placement class–costing perhaps $2000 per student–to an online course–costing perhaps $700 per student.  Rather than random cuts, expanding student access to quality options could actually save the state and districts more than what they’re looking for.
This sort of choice choice is expanding in Louisiana (see a letter of support from Digital Learning Now, Clayton Christensen Institute, and iNACOL) with a really interesting competitive bid process that supports differential pricing.
Kansas is also looking at a transportation cuts.  Opening networks of small flex secondary schools could help reduce long distance transportation.
I visited Topeka to share the following testimony.

When I was a public school superintendent, my district launched what may have been the first K-12 online school in the country.  We did so to offer full and part time learning opportunities to students in our community and statewide.  We quickly found that we were serving a wide range of students.  The founding teachers (who continue to direct the program) benefited from the same funding as our traditional schools, which allowed them to run a quality program, provide support to students, and invest in innovation.
As a director of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), I continue to advocate for access to full and part time online learning.
Every student should take a couple of online courses in high school to experience success in a modality that they will experience in college and work.  Part time online learning makes it possible for every student in Kansas to have access to every Advanced Placement course, to a dozen world languages, and to hundreds of electives—all with quality and affordability.  A small rural high school can shift some upper division courses online and reinvest savings in its core academic program.
Full time online programs are an important option for every family for reasons of mobility, quality, flexible pacing, student health, or family circumstances. Full time schools may be able to save 5-10 percent compared to traditional schools given lower school operating costs.  However, a quality online program has similar staffing ratios to a traditional school—as well as costs associated with enrollment, transcript management, student support, state testing, college and career counseling, and extracurricular activities. They often have much higher technology costs.
A better way to save money using online learning would be to implement a course choice program with a competitive bid reimbursement system like Louisiana.  It would expand access to part time online learning and could save districts and the state a substantial amount over time.  For example, if 40,000 Kansas high school students took one course that cost $700—about $1,000 less than current reimbursement rates—the savings would be twice as much as is anticipated by cutting full time online learning.
If Kansas wants to promote equity, quality, and innovation, it should fund online schools accordingly.
Digital Learning Now is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.  Tom is a director of iNACOL. 

Is Flipped Learning Really that Effective? You Might Be Surprised

The results on flipped learning are in. And regardless of who you ask, the response you will most likely get is an overwhelmingly positive endorsement of this time-shifted approach to classroom instruction and learning. This finding results from Speak Up 2013 National Research Project Findings: A second year review of flipped learning, a white paper recently released by Project Tomorrow in conjunction with the Flipped Learning Network.

In the fall of 2013, over 403,000 students, parents, teachers, and administrators were administered the 11th annual Speak Up online surveys asking them questions about their feelings on flipped learning and the use of videos in the classroom. The general consensus among all groups of participants is that flipped learning can be a valuable and innovative instructional strategy.

Among those district administrators surveyed, one-quarter identified flipped learning as “already having a significant impact on transforming teaching and learning in their district.” Somewhat surprising, this group found that the effects of flipped learning surpassed other instructional trends including “educational games and mobile apps [as well as] online professional learning communities for teachers and administrators.”

While secondary math and science classrooms seem to serve as the most popular environments for flipped learning to occur in, according to the project’s findings, “an additional 15 percent of teachers and 40 percent of administrators said they were interested in ‘trying flipped learning’ this year in their classrooms and schools.” Of note is participants’ desires to flip instruction correctly. Those surveyed acknowledged that “they need more training to do this effectively.”

Certain considerations seem to keep some educators from flipping their classrooms, however. Among those which survey participants agreed on are concerns that “students might not have ‘[Internet] access at home,’ [teachers need] instruction on how to ‘make’ or ‘find high quality videos,’ and how [educators can] ‘best utilize’ the additional classroom time.” Nevertheless, an overall drop in concerns from last year’s report allude to an increasing acceptance of flipped learning as a viable alternative to traditional teaching methods.

Regarding current use of digital content in the classroom, “46 percent of teachers said that they are currently using videos that they find online within their classroom instruction, and 16 percent say that they are regularly creating videos of their lessons or lectures for students to watch.”

While a comprehensive approach to flipped learning requires more than simply delivering instruction through video, that educators are open to utilizing classroom time for deeper learning as opposed to instructional delivery is promising, especially if you ask surveyed students their opinions on the matter.

Of the more than 180,000 middle and high school students who shared their thoughts in the Speak Up 2013 surveys, “almost three-quarters of these students agree that flipped learning would be a good way for them to learn, with 32 percent of those students strongly agreeing with that idea.”

According to Speak Up data previously documented with other emerging digital learning trends, “the student interest in new classroom models often precedes teacher or even administrator interest or exploration.” In other words, “today’s students in many ways serve as a digital advance team for educators.”

The insights of the Speak Up 2013 surveys even have administrators looking at pre-service teaching programs as well. 41 percent of the school principals surveyed agreed that “pre-service teachers should learn how to set up a flipped learning class model.”

Though flipped learning is still in its infancy, there is no denying that it already has forward-thinking educators reconsidering how instruction should be delivered and what classroom time with students should ultimately be used for. As the Speak Up findings report, “The flipped learning model is gaining the attention of educators who are interested in improving student achievement and teacher effectiveness by leveraging digital tools to enable innovation.”

Have you flipped your classroom yet? If so, what has worked for you? Both Project Tomorrow and the Flipped Learning Network are excited to continue researching the flipped learning model and finding ways to support educators and administrators as they investigate this innovative learning approach in their schools and classrooms too.

Ten Tips for Success in an Online Class: Student-to-Student

By: Grant Ryerse
My Twitter profile includes a couple Latin words. You wonder why? I am taking an online Latin class through BYU Independent Study. Online learning provides a highly valuable learning option, which is becoming, and will likely remain, a regular experience for the students of the future. My Latin class has helped me foster many skills needed for online learning success. Latin isn’t offered at my high school, but because I would like to be a doctor when I am older, I knew a background in Latin would help me develop a foundation valuable for learning the maze of complicated medical terms, which are a crucial part of medicine. The study of Latin has also has expanded my English vocabulary which helps me in my other classes. In addition to the online Latin class, I take five classes at a large suburban high school.
Grant_SS_LatinHere are ten considerations that I have developed for students to review before taking an online course that will strengthen their engagement and increase their chance of online learning success. These considerations are all connected; being able to adopt all ten as a student will be especially effective. Students already taking an online class would also benefit from reviewing these items and finding some keys for improvement.

  1. Time Management. Create a personal calendar for the course that consists of a layout of what activities (readings, journals, etc…) need to be accomplished each day.
  2. Organization. Make sure that you have everything you need to succeed in the class, including materials (note cards or digital flashcards, laptop, passwords, books) and that you create quiet time in your life for class work daily.
  3. Flexibility. Adapt and go with the flow. Remember that you may need to revise and rethink your calendar plans as you begin the class. Being successful also means taking care of all areas of one’s life.  Sometimes during my open period I train for sports, study for another class, or focus on Latin work, depending on how I have planned the needs of any specific day.
  4. Learning Style. An audio or tactile-based learner might struggle in an online environment. Take the time to develop a metacognitive perspective and consider learning about learning styles through an online quiz to gain insights and strategies to give you success.
  5. Group. Develop a group of study friends as a support network. I was fortunate enough to have two other friends take the same class. Someone who understands a certain concept particularly well can assist the group, which is especially valuable.
  6. Extra help. A student needs to be open to looking for extra help, whether that is from a tutor or teacher of a similar class. I was reluctant at first, but I met with a tutor and quickly recognized what I was missing without this valuable asset.
  7. Use of technology. Use technology to your advantage. This might mean finding an online textbook or a website that helps you with the topic. Get help with any technology bugs or glitches that may set you back.
  8. Independent work. Most of the time, you won’t have other people to work with, so you need to be able to go through your work on your own.
  9. Communication. Make yourself comfortable e-mailing or calling the instructor. This is necessary if you have any questions, content-related or other.
  10. Course reputation. Research the program or course that you are going to be taking. If a particular course has bad reviews, you might want to look into other schools that offer the class.

These ten considerations are something that I wish I had had before I started taking my online Latin class. I would have then been able to construct an outline with a plan laid out for the future and organized everything beforehand. These ten crucial considerations are extremely valuable resources; make sure to use all the resources that are accessible for a successful educational experience.
About the AuthorGrant Ryerse is in the Class of 2017 at East Ridge High School in Woodbury, Minnesota. He is currently enrolled in a two-year online Latin course through Brigham Young University’s K12 Independent Study program.

Slow and Steady Wins the EdTech Race

By: Parker Hudnut
Much has been written about L.A. Unified’s $1 billion iPad initiative, which has generated a heated national debate about what a school or district needs to consider before starting a blended learning program of its own. While the intention was good – making sure that all students, especially those from low-income families, have access to technology – the execution of the program was less than ideal.
Rather than getting technology meaningfully into the hands of all its 700,000 students, L.A. Unified has become a cautionary tale with seemingly no end to the lessons that can be learned. Teachers and principals, for example, should be included from the very beginning to help with technology training, testing and purchasing decisions. Answers to practical questions like the initial investment, ongoing costs, maintenance and privacy should be considered either from the start or through a small pilot.
When we teach our children about problem solving, we start with research and planning. Similarly, when we decided to add technology into the instructional model at ICEF Public Schools, it was done slowly and with lots of review along the way. Most importantly, we knew we needed to take advantage of what we could learn from others, especially teachers.
We began rolling out our own blended learning program three years ago by soliciting teacher volunteers to design and develop our approach, knowing that teachers needed to have ownership in the process from the start if we were going to be successful.
In 2012-13, we created a small pilot program of 25 teachers, who were chosen from 50 applicants. That first group worked with our director of blended learning Peter Watts, a former principal, to visit other schools to see what was and wasn’t working elsewhere, and decided how to use and share what they learned in monthly training and professional development sessions. We wanted teachers to be empowered to choose the best tools for their specific classroom challenges. Teachers were then given the autonomy to decide how and when to incorporate blended learning approaches into our curriculum within their own classrooms.
Aziza Pavageau, a second grade teacher at ICEF Vista, saw great success in the pilot. In her first year of teaching, Aziza had discovered how challenging it was to differentiate instruction for each student in her class. As a second year teacher using blended learning, she was able to do differentiate more effectively. By using online adaptive programs and the data they provided, Aziza was able to identify and offer extra support to students struggling with a particular concept. On the other end of the spectrum, those students who had mastered a topic could continue to learn and move at their own pace, providing challenging material so that they wouldn’t get bored. In this way, Aziza was able to work with both students like Elizabeth, who was stuck on learning to count by fives, while Dylan had already moved to third grade math multiplication problems.
By the end of the 2012-13 school year, 100 percent of Aziza’s students scored proficient or advanced in math and 88 percent scored proficient or advanced in English Language Arts on the California state exam – the highest scoring class across our organization, which serves over 4,000 predominantly low-income African American and Latino students in South Los Angeles.
Nikki Peters, a third grade teacher at ICEF Inglewood, had previously tried using blended learning while working for a school in the L.A. Unified School District. At ICEF, Nikki found the freedom, coupled with support from her school director, to develop a system that worked for her class. She structures her day by constantly moving from class-wide mini lessons to workshops in small groups, bringing together some students for individualized instruction directly with her while others work independently on computers. She’s found that by breaking things up, kids are able to stay focused, keep moving and get the help they need.
Our work wasn’t just done in the classroom, however. Parents and teachers also worked together to understand how the new technology would be used at school and could support learning at home. For example, parents were able to see how much time their children were spending online, how many assignments had been completed, areas in which they were exceling or struggling, and have access to instructional videos as well as the teacher’s online gradebook. As a result, ICEF teachers reported an increase in the number of parents involved in their child’s learning.
Over the course of the last year, our teachers have learned how to incorporate technology into their classrooms as an instructional tool, and combine it with direct instruction, small group work and independent practice, and have begun to see their students take ownership of their learning. Now, we’re working to incorporate technology into the classrooms at all 12 ICEF schools.
Expanding what has been a successful program thus far will now depend on our ability to upgrade our IT infrastructure – which we are working on thanks to $1.25 million we recently received from a combination of grants. Improving connectivity and adding more wireless access points is enabling us to more consistently offer online testing, blended learning and advanced instructional methods for all our teachers and students. This work will continue and accelerate this year and is part of all our facilities plans.
Technology allows for innovation in education, but only when applied in a thoughtful, practical and supportive way…which can sometimes mean that moving slowly with deliberate urgency is the most effective way to actually move ahead.
Parker Hudnut is the CEO of ICEF Public Schools in Los Angeles. He previously served as the Executive Director of Innovation and Charter Schools for the Los Angeles Unified School District, and as COO/CFO of Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools. He is currently a Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow.

Reflections on Khan Blends

It was a visit to Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto that inspired Scott Ellis to “really dive into blended.” The math class using Khan Academy also impressed 60 Minutes  (here’s a short video description).  Scott had five important observations

1.  Framing. The teacher provided great framing at the beginning of the class.  She said to everyone, “Remember, we all learn at different speeds, and that is a good thing.  Some of you are still working on the content from the multiplication unit, and I will be helping you in a small group over here.  For the rest of you, first work on your homework, then do your Khan Academy, then your other assignment.  Ready?  Go.”  Then she sat and worked with about 5 students in a small group with a miniature white board, while the others all got up and pulled their laptops out of the cart in the back of the class and got to work.  She had the sequence of activities written on the whiteboard.

2.  Show what you know. The students were using Khan Academy. They were all also using paper notebooks and were required to show their work and turn in their notebooks, though they submitted their answers to questions in Khan.  So she could see whether they were getting the answers right in Khan, but could also see where the kids were making errors from their notebooks.  As I walked through the classroom I could see this process play out.

3.  Peer tutoring. She put two columns on the whiteboard:  “Needs help” and “Offers help”.  At one point in the class Jessica went up and wrote her name under “Needs help” and listed rounding decimals as her topic.  Within a minute Anthony got up and wrote his name under “Offers help”, and then he sat next to her and helped her with it.  There was no involvement from the teacher.  This was really neat to see, and I am quite certain that their roles would have been reversed in another class.

4.  Workflow. Each student had a piece of paper with the list of topics to do in Khan Academy–I think there was a sequence of about 10 elements.  As a student would get the necessary number correct in Khan they would use a pencil and check off the item on the list, then go on to the next one.  It seemed really helpful for the students to have this list so they could see where they were and what they needed to do next, and they were all at different places on the checklist.

5.  Tech Support. Having the tech work well was critical.  One boy’s laptop had not been fully docked in the cart, so its battery did not charge.  When he found out it was dead, he started chatting with the girls, etc.  And another boy was chugging along, but then the wireless slowed down.  He started getting frustrated and pounding the return key pretty hard as he tried to get it to refresh.  Both of these situations got addressed quickly, and the whole class worked really well.  But it is very easy to see how everything falls apart quickly if the tech is not in place and working seamlessly.

A recent SRI report on Khan Academy recapped us in nine pilot schools.  Key findings included:

  • Student perceptions were positive: 71% of students reported that they enjoyed using Khan Academy,
  • 85%, reported that the use of Khan Academy had positively affected their students’ learning,
  • Teachers appreciated the modular architecture but lack of alignment with core curriculum posed a challenge for most teachers and some teachers found it hard to find right content for specific standards, and
  • There was little flipped classroom use and less video access than anticipated (i.e., a little different than in Khan’s book).

One site had stronger use relative to others as a result of one-to-one access, mandated completion of Khan Academy goals, close teacher monitoring of progress, a well-planned integration with the core curriculum, and a 90 minute math block.

The SRI report concluded:

The teacher’s role is still central even in the wake of the adoption of new technologies. The achievable classroom benefits of using new technologies can include building stronger connections with students, and developing a clearer and deeper understanding of what students actually know. At their best, the new technology tools can enable teachers to do what they find most fulfilling: interacting with students to have a positive impact on their learning experience.

Core & more. Last week at the CUE conference, Sal Kahn introduced an extensive library of Common Core-aligned math missions designed by 40 math educators. They also partnered with Smarter Balanced to receive feedback and ensure the problems aligned precisely to each standard. The 50,000 questions are available in a well organized map and include step-by-step solutions.  Students get a dashboard identifying progress and gaps.

Khan also announced a  partnership with College Board to provide free test prep for the new SAT. Here is a link to an SAT landing page, including a 4 minute conversation between College Board CEO David Coleman and Sal Khan.

The new content and features are impressive.  Khan’s appetite for impact and voracious fund raising ability are remarkable.  We’ll track how schools are putting the new capabilities to work.  Stay tuned for a fall update on Khan math blends.

This blog is brought to you by The Nellie Mae Education Foundation. For more stayed tuned for the Getting Smart on Blending Middle Grade Math bundle and see the other posts in this series:

EdTech 10: Hitting the Standards

Digital learning and common standard are breaking down barriers and allowing teachers to share resources, tools, and strategies across state lines. But for dubious reasons some states are ignoring the opportunity and stepping off the innovation platform–it’s a bit like going back to Blackberry. For those of you in fast forward, here’s the top ten EdTech stories of the week.

Blended Schools & Tools

1. Adding Nine. This week, the Digital Promise League of Innovative School, (@digitalpromise) the coalition of school districts and education agencies collaborating across the nation to transform teaching and learning with technology added 9 more members. The total now comes to 46 across 25 states, representing almost 3 million students. Digital Promise will be accepting applications in the summer for acceptance into the Fall 2014 cohort, so let’s keep the list growing! Watch for a new paper on competency-based teacher preparation that we developed with Digital Promise.

2. Mission to Math. During this year’s CUE conference in his keynote, Sal Khan announced the new math resource that is now launching on Khan Academy (@KhanAcademy)– fully aligned Common Core math missions that lead students from kindergarten through high school to mastery of the common core math standards.  (See Reflections on Khan Blends.)

3. One Student. One iPad.  In New Jersey, middle school students are grabbing their personal iPads and diving into school work with a new sense of engagement and it’s beginning to be noticed- whether it’s a history class, virtually visiting museums in Rome or in the spacious math centers at William C. McGinnis Middle School in Perth Amboy, which is half-way through its first year of Teach to One Math (@teachtoone). With 94-minute blocks, carved into four units and feature eight different learning zones, from computer-based tutorials to peer-to-peer problem solving to a version of the traditional teacher-led lesson- all are focused on giving each student what they need.

Digital Developments

4. By This September.  Tom Wheeler, FCC (@FCC) Chairman announced this week that they aim to have E-Rage reforms done by this fall  and will seek to discontinue E-Rate funding for legacy technologies in its forthcoming E-Rate modernization with new regulations that will change the structure of the program for 2015. (See digital learning coalition comments for more).

For the Core

5. Field Tests are Underway. 22 states began participating in the practice run of assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards that Smart Balanced (@smarterbalanced) just launched. It is allowing teachers and students a chance to practice with the CCSS computerized assessments before they are officially implemented in the spring of 2015. Looks like Indiana will not be practicing, as the dropped the Common Core, deciding to step off the Platform for Equity and Innovation.

Dollars & Deals

6. Investing in Students Experience. Takelessons (@takelessons) raised $7 million and has acquired Chicago-based online lesson facilitator company, Betterfly (@betterfly) in order to provide students of all ages ways to keep their minds and bodies healthy, active, and inspired, by learning something they’ve always wanted to learn how to do. San Francisco-based Clever (@getclever) raised $10.3 million to help develop their API in order to keep up with all the apps students and schools are using, letting schools integrate all new learning software with their existing district data systems.

7. Two Pitches are Better Than One. Tuesday night in Boston, LearnLaunch (@LearnLaunch) hosted Pitch Perfect pitch session during which 6 edtech companies got everyone excited for the future. We wish we were headed down to New Orleans for tonight’s Edu Pitch Night at 4.0 schools (@4pt0Schools) introducing ten new education experiments and ventures that are working on building the future of school! We will be following along with  #EdPitchNOEW.

Teachers & Tech

8. Taking It Into Their Own Hands. While some states are waiting to see how things work out, the teachers in Nevada are not waiting. The are leading the way devising strategies and best practices for implementing and teaching the Common Core State Standards.

The Big “D”

9. It’s All About the Data. This week Bob Wise (@BobWise48 ), president of the Alliance for Excellence in Education, spoke to all those attending the annual CoSN Conference (@CoSN) in D.C. “In the next two years, the future of truly personalized learning and student achievement outcomes will largely be determined on how effectively data is used. Success depends on addressing fast growing issues of how data is collected and maintaining student privacy.” Wise spread the message that now is the time to address these issues in order to avoid setting back the promise of technology.

Movers, Shakers & Ground-breakers

10.  Online Learning is Hiring. Coursera (@coursera) announced former Yale University President, Rick Levin will take the reigns as the new CEO. While after 13 years as an exec at Vistaprint, Wendy Cebula will be named President and COO of EdX (@EdX).


Coursera is a portfolio company of Learn Capital where Tom is a partner.

Mini Maker Faire: Seattle

Last weekend, the third Seattle Mini Maker Faire took over the EMP museum in Seattle Center and filled it inside and out with neat things. Billed as a place where “people show what they are making, and share what they are learning,” the all-ages faire featured some fantastic projects. A few of my favorites:
Open ROV: Open source underwater robots for exploration & education
If you’ve seen those videos where people send their camera up to the edge of space using a weather balloon, this is kind of like that, but in the ocean. And it’s a robot. Or, it’s like scuba diving, but instead of you diving, it’s your robot. (Scared of open water? Unable to dive because of an injury? Not trained for technical diving? No problem! The OpenROV can explore to depths greater than 200 feet deep). ROV stands for “Remotely Operated Vehicle” and OpenROV is a Do-It-Yourself community of people who want to build robots to explore underwater–“open” refers to open source: designs and instructions are free and shared among community members). “We’re a group of amateur and professional ROV builders and operators from over 50 countries who have a passion for exploring the deep,” explains their website. Check out this video an OpenROV took during a dive in the Sea of Cortez.

Photo courtesy of Suspension of Disbelief

Suspension of Disbelief: a giant playground crocheted by hand
This giant, adult-sized jungle gym/interactive art piece is being created by hand-crocheting (as in, crocheting using your hands, not crochet needles) white industrial strength nylon rope. Colorf-changing LED spotlights connected to motion sensors will light up the rope at night. Suspension of Disbelief will debut at Burning Man, but look for it around Oregon (Portland) and Washington (Georgetown and Burien). Check out their website, or help them buy more rope!
Two versions of a pinhole camera
PinholeCameraView2There were quite a few “pinhole camera” projects at the Mini Maker Faire, but my favorite were these two: the world’s cheapest and easiest way to have fun with a pinhole camera, and a pinhole camera you can walk inside. Seattle ReCreative, an art and creativity space in Ballard that reuses materials, had pinhole cameras made out of cardboard boxes, paper, tape, and aluminum foil. They didn’t have film to develop photos with, but by putting your face up to the box you could see the view from the pinhole projected on the back of the cardboard box. The giant pinhole camera worked the same way, but used a tent (instead of a cardboard box). Walking inside, the view from the “pinhole” (actually a hole about the size of a tennis ball, with the lens from a pair of glasses taped over to focus it) was projected on the back of the tent.

The Camera Obscura, a walk-in pinhole camera.


Not Adding Up

From an early age I was a whiz at math. It came naturally to me. Mathematics associated with chemistry and genetics especially excited me and piqued my interest. I was moving quickly through math in middle school and I thought for sure I would push through and advance quickly come high school. Then 9th grade came and everything changed.

I was excited to jump into Algebra. That was my strong subject (Geometry not so much, but that is another story). I would do my homework, showed my thought process, and got the right answer, but it was still marked wrong. What was going on? I met with the teacher and she said I wasn’t doing it the way she taught me. I argued, “but I got the right answer and showed my work.” It didn’t matter. I didn’t understand her method of getting the right answer.

Come mid-term I was nearly failing the class and my parents were contacted. “Why is my daughter nearly failing a class she has always been so good at?” I felt inadequate, frustrated, and unsupported by my school. I was able to pass the class, but that was the last math class I took. I had met my requirement of math classes to graduate from high school and I was done.

This is a story that we have heard over and over again and has instigated a shift in how students are taught. Personalized learning gives students the opportunity to learn their way, at their own pace. I wonder how far I may have gone if it weren’t for that experience? Would I have had a different life path? Would I have been a Chemist or Geneticist? I guess I’ll never know, but we have the opportunity to prevent this from being a continuing theme.

With the adoption and implementation of programs designed to be adaptable to the student, more doors are opened to achieve. I wouldn’t have dreaded going to class because I didn’t want to feel stupid. I was avoiding a subject that used to bring me so much pleasure and pride. I joined the Getting Smart team because we work to help educate thought leaders, educators, schools, and districts on the importance of providing an experience that makes children love to learn. Although writing this post has brought up many old emotions, I am proud that I am working to prevent my experience from being repeated.

How have your past education experiences influenced you today?