Worthy of Note: December 19, 2011

Assessment Seminar (January 11)

Innovations in Automated Scoring Workshop
Pearson’s Automated Scoring of Writing, Speaking, and Mathematics
(White paper)
The new assessment systems designed to measure the Common Core standards will include far more performance-based items and tasks than most of today’s assessments. In order to provide feedback quickly and make scoring of the responses affordable, the new assessments will rely heavily on artificial intelligence scoring, hereafter referred to as automated scoring. Familiarity with the current range of applications and operational accuracy of automatic scoring technology can help provide an understanding of which item types can be scored automatically in the near term. This document describes several examples of current item types that Pearson has designed and fielded successfully with automatic scoring. The item examples are presented along with operational reliability and accuracy figures, as well as information of the nature and development of the automated scoring systems used by Pearson.

The seminars Pearson have been doing have been very informative. This one on Wednesday, January 11, in Atlanta promises to be another learning opportunity. Myk Garn will participate in this seminar. For further information, contact Myk at myk.garn@sreb.org.

Digital Learning, Online Learning - Or by any other name

Digital Education; Can Technology Replace Classroom Teachers?
Marcia Clemmitt, CQ Researcher, December 2, 2011 (Subscription only)
Refer to Curt Bonk’s blog:

Covering today's most important issues and controversial subjects, CQ Researcher has been the choice of students and librarians for over 80 years. Each weekly issue—written by an experienced CQ Press reporter—is an in-depth, single topic report featuring more than 12,000 words of text and extensive bibliographies. CQ Researcher is only available by subscription but usually is easily located through academic databases that you probably have access to.

Digital technology is becoming increasingly commonplace in K-12 education, and many researchers argue that it will save money and transform schools into more effective institutions. But other experts contend that the evidence so far is slim on exactly what computers can accomplish in the classroom. The dominance of standardized testing means digital technologies must raise students test scores to levels administrators and policymaker deem significant. But computer-based learning may not be well suited for that task, and further efforts to computerize education may require schools to shift away from standardized testing, experts say. Until now, most successful computer-learning initiatives have required specialized training for teachers. But experts say developing technology that will be easy for nonspecialists to use remains a challenge. Meanwhile, despite the debate over the effectiveness of computerized education, all online K-12 schools are proliferating nationwide, and enrollment in online courses is soaring.

Also, pro/con on the issues in CQ Researcher, December 2011

Should schools use as much digital technology as they can afford?
Pro: Curt Bonk, Professor, Instructional Systems Technology Department, Indiana University
Written for CQ Researcher, December 2011

Con: Paul Thomas, Associate Professor of Education, Furman University
Written for CQ Researcher, December 2011

Further summary: 2011
New Florida law allows charter schools and individual school districts to offer online instruction and permits elementary-school students to study full time at Florida Virtual School…. Idaho becomes first state to require students to complete two or more online courses as a graduation requirement…. Computer Science Education Act introduced in the House and Senate to bring more programming and computer-problem-solving classes to K-12 schools…. New York City announces new investments in school technology while laying off teachers and canceling school construction projects…. Young Scratch hobbyists have posted more than 2 million media projects online.

Virtual Schools Booming as States Mull Warnings
Associated Press, Posted in Education Week, Digital Directions, December 16, 2011
Is online education as good as face-to-face teaching?
Virtual education companies tout a 2009 research review conducted for the U.S. Department of Education that showed K-12 students did as well or better in online learning conditions as in a traditional classroom.

But critics say most studies, including many in that 2009 review, used results from students taking only some—but not all—of their courses online. They also point out wide gaps in state oversight to ensure students, and not their parents or tutors, are actually completing tests and coursework.

Online K-12 Schooling in the U.S.: Uncertain Private Ventures in Need of Public Regulation
Gene V. Glass and Kevin G. Welner, National Education Policy Center, University of Colorado Boulder, October 2011
This National Education Policy Center policy brief focuses on virtual schooling, the fastest growing alternative to traditional K-12 education in the U.S. The expansion in virtual schools (especially full-time virtual schools) is taking place despite the absence of any data on the effectiveness of full-time cyber programs and with little government oversight. The authors offer recommendations for state legislators and other policymakers. These recommendations are contained in model legislation, which accompanies the policy brief.

More Schools Trying Out Computers — on Kindergarteners
Jill Barshay, The Hechinger Report/McClatchy Washington Bureau, October 11, 2011
Computer-based learning for the youngest students is spreading but remains controversial.

Converge Special Report: The Evolving Classroom
Center for Digital Education and Converge, December 2, 2011
The 2011 Q4 Special Report focuses on the evolution of learning settings from traditional, instructor-led classrooms to completely virtual, student-centric classes and schools. It describes and illustrates myriad K-12, college and university learning environments, gives examples of how evolving classroom models impact students and teachers, and highlights the technologies that make it possible. To bring students into a digital learning age, the classroom must evolve.

So Far, 27 States Sign On to Digital Learning Day
Ian Quillen, Education Week, Digital Education,
Two months after the announcement of Feb. 1, 2012 as the nation's first Digital Learning Day, 27 states have agreed to take part with their own statewide observations, according to a press release from Gov. Bob Wise's Washington-based Alliance for Excellent Education issued Tuesday.

Is Mandating Online Learning Good Policy?
Michael B. Horn, Innosight Institute, December 7, 2011
An increasing number of advocates for online learning have come out in favor of mandating that states require students take at least one college- or career-prep course online to earn a high school diploma. Digital Learning Now!, a national campaign chaired by former Governors Jeb Bush and Bob Wise to advance policies to create a high quality digital learning environment for each student–and where I serve as a “Digital Luminary,” is on board as well.

States are taking notice. Michigan jumped in first with an online-learning requirement for graduation 5 years ago, and Alabama quickly followed suit. In the last year, Florida and Idaho have jumped on board as well, and districts, such as Tennessee’s Putnam County schools, have adopted an online-learning graduation requirement, too.

But is an online-learning requirement a good idea? For someone who advocates for a transformed student-centric education system powered by digital learning, you might think my quick answer would be an emphatic yes, but I’m not so sure.

Online Learning, Personalized
Somini Sengupta, New York Times, December 4, 2011
This article is part of the NYTimes series, Grading the Digital School (previous articles in the series)

The software program unleashed in this classroom is the brainchild of Salman Khan, an Ivy League-trained math whiz and the son of an immigrant single mother. Mr. Khan, 35, has become something of an online sensation with his Khan Academy math and science lessons on YouTube, which has attracted up to 3.5 million viewers a month.

Now he wants to weave those digital lessons into the fabric of the school curriculum — a more ambitious and as yet untested proposition.

This semester, at least 36 schools nationwide are trying out Mr. Khan’s experiment: splitting up the work of teaching between man and machine, and combining teacher-led lessons with computer-based lectures and exercises.

It is too early to know whether the Khan Academy software makes a real difference in learning. A limited study with students in Oakland, Calif., this year found that children who had fallen behind in math caught up equally well if they used the software or were tutored in small groups. The research firm SRI International is working on an evaluation of the software in the classroom.

1-to-1 Computing: Turning Around School Technology
Stephen Noonoo, THE Journal, December 7, 2011
Early in the last decade, Piedmont City School District, a small three-school district in Eastern Alabama between Birmingham and Atlanta, laid claim to the worst computer-to-student ratio in the state. Since then, the Piedmont district, where 65 percent of students qualify for reduced or free lunch, has successfully shaken off that title after embarking on a number of ambitious technology-driven projects, including a 1-to-1 take-home laptop initiative--called Mpower--a remote-learning partnership with Stanford University, and a wide-scale E-rate-funded project that will eventually bring high-speed Internet access to every student's home.

Online Schools Go Old School to Nab Cybertruants
Education Week, Digital Directions, Published online December 5, 2011; updated December 14, 2011, Associated Press. Minnesota
"It is very easy to become truant in online," said Stacy Bender, dean of students at Minneapolis-based Minnesota Virtual High School, which has 1,300 students spread throughout the state. Unmotivated students can just stop logging in and then lie about it to their parents and within two weeks, they are truant, she said.

To catch online truants, Bender and her colleagues in online schools in Minnesota use mathematical formulas that compare the hours spent on online lessons and academic progress. The formula allows for high achievers who work quickly, while catching students who are just going through the motions.

Virtually Educated
Gail Collins, Op-Ed, New York Times, December 2, 2011
Collins looks at what resources (research?) are saying about online learning; for instance, does full-time online learning really work for disadvantaged kids who may be alone at home all day? She did not find much reputable study to report. One focus of the article is K-12 Inc. in Tennessee.

Idaho passes two course online graduation requirement
Keeping Pace Blog, December 1, 2011
Online learning policy can change quickly, and we already have a significant update to Keeping Pace 2011. As of September 2011, three states required students to complete an online course in order to graduate: Alabama, Florida, and Michigan; see Table 10 on p. 39 for additional details. But that has now changed, as we have a new state to add to the list: Idaho.

California's Online 'Bill Of Rights' Expands High School Digital Learning
John Fensterwald, Thoughts on Public Education, Huffington Post, November 14, 2011
Students whose high schools don't offer the required courses or enough sections to qualify them for admission to the University of California or California State University would have a right to take those courses online, under an initiative that sponsors are targeting for next November's ballot.

The California Student Bill of Rights would greatly expand high school online education, while breaking down geographic and other barriers that are denying many rural and urban students equal opportunities to attend a four-year public university.

Two Families, Two Takes on Virtual Schooling
Heidi Mitchell, Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2011
Referencing Susan Patrick of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, The Wall Street Journal notes that the number of students in U.S. K-12 virtual schools 225,000 from 50,000 a decade ago—and 30% year over year since 2001. In light of this growth, WSJ takes this opportunity to profile two families and their experience with virtual education, as well as to summarize just how online classrooms work, from learning to funding.

Digital Media Use Policy

School Leaders Collaborate on Best Practices for District-Level Digital Media Policy
Sarah J., Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning, December 13, 2011
School leaders from around the country met in Washington, D.C., last week to collaborate on creating models for digital media use policies in K-12 education. Administrators from 13 school districts were selected by the Consortium on School Networking (COSN) to work together on district-level issues like acceptable use policies, the use of student-owned mobile devices or social media in the classroom, how to use social media to communicate with parents and community members, connections to out-of-school learning, and encouraging students to share their work online.

Open Educational Resources

Essays on Open Educational Resources and Copyright
Stephen Downes, Free Learning, August 16, 2011
There is a story to be told about open source, open content, and open learning from the point of view of the person desiring access to these things, rather than from the point of view of the provider. This book is a collection of my writings on open educational resources and open access to learning.

Games and Simulations

Learning Science Through Computer Games and Simulations
Margaret A. Honey and Margaret Hilton, eds., Committee on Science Learning, National Research Council, 2011
An expert panel finds that computer-simulation games can spark more inquiry-based, project-oriented science learning but that research on how games work is in very early stages.

Video Games Key to Learning for Chicago Charter School
Joe Robertson, The Kansas City Star, Mo. (MCT), Education Week, Digital Directions, December 16, 2011
This is the future American school?
Welcome to ChicagoQuest charter school.
It can be loud here.
But one thing is evident in several hours of watching and talking with the sixth- and seventh-graders here:
They like coming to school.

Evaluation of Educational Technology Programs and Services

New Guidelines for Ed-tech Research Could Help Educators, Vendors
Meris Stansbury, eSchool News, December 8, 2011
Report explains how to evaluate educational technology programs and services properly and effectively to produce a stimulating 21st-century learning environment, school leaders see educational technology as a no-brainer. But using research to distinguish a truly effective ed-tech product from a less-than-effective product can prove difficult when a vendor or for-profit company conducts the research. Now, new guidelines for vendors and educators aim to solve this comparison conundrum.

The report, titled “Conducting and Reporting Product Evaluation Research: Guidelines and Considerations for Educational Technology Publishers and Developers,” is authored by Denis Newman, CEO of Empirical Education Inc., and produced by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA). See this note: Educators: Email Jonathan Magin to request a free download.

NCES Report

Distance Education Courses for Public Elementary and Secondary School Students: 2009–10
NCES, November 29, 2011
This report provides national estimates about distance education courses in public school districts. The estimates presented in this report are based on a district survey about distance education courses offered by the district or by any of the schools in the district during the 2009-10 school year.

A Deeper Look at NCES Report
Keeping Pace Blog, December 12, 2011
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) recently released its first look at data collected from 2,150 districts around the country in its report Distance Education Courses for Public Elementary and Secondary School Students: 2009-10. The data are incredibly valuable because this is the first large-scale, large-sample effort to collect such information since 2004-05, when it was updated from 2002-03. More recent numbers that have been reported have been estimates that have either been based on very small sample sizes, with likely response biases, or estimates that did not report methods at all. This report therefore is critical in providing a number—albeit imperfect—with a far greater level of accuracy than we have had recently.

More Than Half of U.S. Districts Have Students in Distance Learning Programs
David Nagel, THE Journal, December 1, 2011
A majority of public school districts in the United States have students who participate in distance education courses at some level, according to data released by the National Center for Education Statistics. But the most of those districts aren't delivering the education themselves.

The report, "Distance Education Courses for Public Elementary and Secondary School Students: 2009-10," indicated that a full 55 percent of districts have students who were enrolled in distance education courses in the 2009-2010 school year (the latest full school year for which such information is available). Half of those districts reported that students were participating in distance courses provided by a higher education institution, 47 percent from independent vendors, and 33 percent from state virtual schools.

Charter Schools: Online and Not

Florida Charter Schools: Big Money, Little Oversight
Scott Hiaasen and Kathleen McGrory, The Miami Herald (MCT), Education Week, December 12, 2011
During the past 15 years, Florida has embarked on a dramatic shift in public education, steering billions in taxpayer dollars from traditional school districts to independently run charter schools. What started as an educational movement has turned into one of the region’s fastest-growing industries, backed by real-estate developers and promoted by politicians. Read more…

At School in CyberSpace
New York Times, Slides, December 12, 2011
This is a series of eight slides that accompanies the article by Stephanie Saul.

Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools
Stephanie Saul, New York Times, December 12, 2011
The growth of for-profit online schools, one of the more overtly commercial segments of the school choice movement, is rooted in the theory that corporate efficiencies combined with the Internet can revolutionize public education, offering high quality at reduced cost.

The New York Times has spent several months examining this idea, focusing on K12 Inc. A look at the company’s operations, based on interviews and a review of school finances and performance records, raises serious questions about whether K12 schools — and full-time online schools in general — benefit children or taxpayers, particularly as state education budgets are being slashed. Read the NYTImes findings…

Front-Page Assault on Virtual Learning Won’t Go Unnoticed
Center for Education Reform
Anticipating the article about the NYTimes findings, this item was published by the Center for Education Reform the week before.

U.S. Charter School Enrollment Hits Milestone, But Questions Remain
Veronica Devore, PBS Newshour, December 7, 2011
More and more students are attending charter schools in the United States, but performance results from these independent schools are still a mixed bag.

Two million of the nation's schoolchildren -- about 4.5 percent -- now attend a charter school, according to new findings from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. That's a 13 percent uptick in charter school enrollment over last year, the largest single-year increase ever recorded.

"This 2 million student mark is quite significant," Ursula Wright, interim CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said in a statement. "It demonstrates increased demand by families who want to see more high quality education options for their children."

However, there is much debate over the effectiveness of charter schools. Read more….

Musings from WCET

20 "eLearnings" From Two Months on the Road(trip)

Here are some of Ellen’s take-aways from literally thousands of plenaries, presentations, and poster sessions along with hundreds of vendor stands and trade show booths during here “roadtrip.”

Online Testing

With online testing on the horizon, infrastructure could be a challenge
eSchool News, November 29, 2011
School leaders unsure who will pay for computers as states prepare to give online exams. With new online tests being designed to reflect the Common Core standards adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, school districts in these states will have to replace pencil-and-paper testing with the new online exams as soon as the 2014-15 school year. But school leaders are unsure how the computers and software needed for such a move will be funded.

The Bigger Picture: How Well Prepared are Students?

Pathways to Success - How knowledge and skills at age 15 shape future lives in Canada
After completing compulsory education, are today’s youth equipped to participate fully in society? In 2000, Canada explored this question and launched the Youth in Transition Survey (YITS), a follow-up to the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). YITS is a longitudinal study that tracks 30 000 Canadian students who took part in the PISA 2000 assessment and, with interviews every two years, follows their progress from secondary school into higher education and the labour market. Download the pdf.

Pathways to Success is a collaborative effort between the OECD and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

The New Global Skill Set
Anthony Jackson and Heather Singmaster, Education Week, Global Learning, December 5, 2011
Just as businesses are now collaborating and competing around the world, so are education systems. The nations who best prepare their youth for the global knowledge economy will fare the best in the 21st century. I've asked my colleague Heather Singmaster, senior program associate at Asia Society, to contribute a three-part series on global skills, and how nations are transforming their education systems to teach them.

Tracking Data

Report: State Data Systems Progress, Though Key Challenges Remain
David Nagel, Campus Technology, December 1, 2011
A new report from education data coalition Data Quality Campaign is calling on policymakers to strengthen links between K-12, workforce, and post-secondary institutions.

Survey Shows Nearly All States Can Track Data on Students
Sarah D. Sparks, Education Week, December 13, 2011
Nearly all states now have comprehensive data systems that allow them to track students’ academic careers over time, and state officials are starting to dig into using the mountains of information, according to the sixth annual national survey on the subject.

The Data Quality Campaign, a Washington-based nonprofit group that promotes data use in education, released the report last week. For the first time, the survey focused on governors’ perspectives on state longitudinal-data systems, as opposed to the systems’ technical capacity.

Other comments:
States Make Progress on Tracking Quality Education Data, Analysis Says
Tanya Roscoria, Converge, December 2, 2011
For the first time, every state in the nation can empower educators, parents and lawmakers with quality data, according to an annual analysis released today by the Data Quality Campaign.

Thirty-six states have all 10 of the campaign's Elements of Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, up from 24 states last year. These states link student performance from pre-K to postsecondary education, track student progress through a unique student identifier and include student-level transcript data, among other things.

Video Conferencing

We Can See Clearly Now: High-Definition Video Conferencing in Higher Education
White paper
Video conferencing is no longer an option, but an essential tool with a broad range of uses in colleges and universities. Not only does it enrich the learning experience for students, but also it saves significant time and expense for faculty and administrators.

On Keeping Pace 2011

Data Points to Problems in the K-12 E-market
Heather Clayton Staker, Innosight Institute, December 1, 2011
The Keeping Pace 2011 report represents another tour de force by Evergreen Education Group in summarizing the busy, messy growth in K-12 online learning. The report brings much needed clarity and perspective about the state of the movement.

Learning Analytics

7 Things You Should Know About First-Generation Learning Analytics
Peggy Kurkowski, EDUCAUSE, December 15, 2011
In the 7 Things You Should Know About™ First-Generation Learning Analytics, EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative’s (ELI) latest in the monthly series, find out how learning analytics tools can track far more data than an instructor can alone, and at their best, can identify factors that are unexpectedly associated with student learning and course completion.

Mobile Use: What's Happening?

Smartphone Adoption Means More Text, Less Talk
Mike Snider, USA Today, December 15, 2011
Smartphone adoption marches on, with 44% of mobile phone users owning a smartphone, compared with 18% in 2009, according to Nielsen. Its monthly survey of 25,000 mobile consumers finds that the majority of those ages 25 to 34 (64%) and 18 to 24 (53%) now own smartphones. Messages sent via smartphones are replacing cellphone calls. 81% of mobile phone users have sent or received messages in the last 30 days, up from 75% in 2009.

Creating Your Institution's Mobile Learning Strategy
Mary Grush, Campus Technology, December 7, 2011
In fall 2010, Northeastern University began planning an expansion of its mobile applications to allow students, faculty, and staff to stay much better connected to the university. To support and expand this initiative, Alicia Russell, director of Northeastern's Educational Technology Center, considered ways to facilitate faculty members' use of mobile technologies and applications in teaching. Russell and other EdTech Center staff had noticed that faculty who had iPads found them fun and engaging but were not using them in the classroom. In light of that, the EdTech Center developed a mobile learning strategy for the institution--tied to the university's academic priorities--that encourages faculty to go beyond simple apps for e-mail and games and explore the wide array of possibilities for integrating mobile technologies into their classes.

Mobile IT in Higher Education, 2011 Report
EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR)
Discussion about mobile IT in higher education is ubiquitous, but attaining benefits of mobility does not come easily. The ECAR mobile IT study gathered quantitative and qualitative data from a representative sample of 209 higher education institutions. Most respondents to ECAR's 2011 study report little progress in making institutional services, applications, and websites accessible on mobile devices. The average respondent institution has enabled only a few services for mobile access. Institutions that have invested more money and those that have larger numbers of staff assigned to mobile-enablement initiatives show greater progress. Mobile enablement of student-facing services has taken highest priority to date, and we see considerably more mobile progress in areas that are given higher priority. Source:


Collaborate with Colleagues Using Google+ with Extras
Ryan Cordell, The Chronicle, December 15, 2011
This past summer I wrote about staying connected with family using video chat software. This past year, however, I’ve been using video chats for another purpose: to collaborate with colleagues around the country on several inter-institutional projects. Though I rarely use it as a social network, I’ve actually found that the hangout features in Google+ are perfect for professional collaboration.

Google Hangout: A New Collaboration Tool for Learning and Living
Mike Shumake, Getting Smart, December 1, 2011
Google Hangout is a game changer in synchronous, online collaboration, and I can’t wait to put it through its paces next semester. I’m going to start something completely new to see if students respond. I’m going to open a Google Hangout room with an open invitation for students to come join. I’ll keep it open in my office for a few hours every day, and I’m hoping I’ll see students pop in occasionally and join me. The game changer is that Google Hangout isn’t a communication tool with video like a smart phone with a front facing camera. Instead, think of it as a magic portal that connects your workspace to other workspaces.

Using Twitter in High School Classrooms
Bill Ferriter, Education Week Teacher, December 13, 2011
Twitter can be used as a backchannel, encouraging reflection and conversation among students.
Twitter can help students develop their civic voices.
Twitter can become a place to imagine.
In the end, using Twitter in high school classrooms makes sense mostly because it is a social space that has already been embraced by today's teens.

Race to the Top Winners

9 States Win Race to Top Early Learning Grants

Nine states will share $500 million in Race to the Top early learning grants, the U.S. Department of Education confirmed this morning.

They are: California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington. They will get grants ranging from $50 million to $100 million, based on the state's student population, to significantly improve early-education programs in their states. The outside peer reviewers who judged the competition ranked North Carolina No. 1.

Project-Based Learning and STEM

Connecting PBL and STEM… 40 Free Engaging Resources To Use In The Classroom
Michael Gorman, Tech & Learning, 2011
These sites are considered to be great resources that provide ideas or blueprints for an entire PBL project. Included in most plans are project titles, content addressed, 21st century skills, driving questions, products, procedures, and evaluation. The resources in this collection tend to focus on the entire PBL process.

Other Resources

Read a book. Give a book
Combining the joy of reading with the power of helping others. A Pearson Foundation Initiative.

This open, online global community for 21st-century education leaders exists to foster Global Education Transformation--the "GET" in GETideas.org--via virtual collaboration and international dialogue, including the sharing of best practices and resources.

The Status of the Teaching Profession, 2011
Produced by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd, this 13th annual report on the California teacher workforce takes an extended look at principals in the Golden State and their vital role in supporting teacher effectiveness.

Vlingo: The Virtual Assistant for Smartphones
Billie Hara, The Chronicle, December 1, 2011
If you don’t have an iPhone 4S, then you can still have a personal assistant in your phone. Vlingo is a voice-recognition program for many smartphones and is billed as a “virtual assistant” that can “turn words into action.”

E-book Sales Doubled in September, Mass Market Tanked

Publishers Weekly, December 1, 2011
E-book sales doubled in September, to $80.3 million, at the publishers that report results to the AAP. Sales in the print segments had a mixed performance. Source:

Just Fun: Old, but still true!

On the Internet, nobody knows you are a dog


Peter Steiner's cartoon