Articles in the Educational Technology category

Bryant: “Virtual Schools Need a Grounding in Reality”

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant wrote a blog, “Virtual Schools Need a Grounding in Reality,” for “Transforming Learning,” published by Education Week.  Her commentary is based on the new groundbreaking report by NSBA’s Center for Public Education, “Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools.”

Bryant notes that, “Until we take a hard look at the potential and peril of virtual schools, lawmakers must tread much more cautiously.”

The report examines data on all types of online learning, but most notably finds that the data available on the fast-growing field of full-time virtual schools shows low rates of graduation, course completion, and assessment scores.

“The rate at which state legislatures have approved these institutions is remarkable,” Bryant writes. “What’s more remarkable, perhaps, is that the Center found these schools operate with few accountability measures, and states and districts are paying online providers from 70 to 100 percent of the costs of educating students in traditional schools, even though their actual costs should be much lower.”

Further, she writes, “All of this has taken place with no research to back it up — in fact, what little research and anecdotal evidence exists on full-time virtual learning shows alarmingly low graduation rates, course completion and test scores.”

Not all the news is bad, though. Through its 25-year-old Technology Leadership Network, NSBA has highlighted many successful examples of online learning through its Technology Site Visits and conferences, Bryant notes.

The Learning First Alliance is a coalition of 16 major education groups.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 17th, 2012|Categories: Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Data Driven Decision Making, Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Online learning, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , |

Virtual Learning: Growing but untested, NSBA report says

Do K12 students benefit from taking some or all of their classes online? A new report by NSBA’s Center for Public Education, Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools, says that while online education holds promise for 21st century learning, researchers know relatively little about the performance of virtual schools, and the studies that have been done are troubling.

“Virtual learning is the future. It’s increasing,” said Patte Barth, director of the Center. “But we don’t have a lot of information about its effect right now, so I would caution people to start slow and monitor it very closely.”

“Online learning” can refer to anything from a single class, such as an Advanced Placement class that is not available at a school or a credit recovery class, to full-time K-12 virtual schools, to a combination online and face-to-face instruction. Programs can be created and operated by school districts, states, non-profit or for-profit entities, as well as a host of other sources, which can blur the lines of accountability. 

While the information on online learning is incomplete, several studies on the practice are not encouraging. For example, a Stanford University study covering the period 2007-2010 found that 100 percent of virtual charters schools in Pennsylvania performed significantly worse in math and reading than traditional schools in terms of student gains.

The research also shows that full-time K-12 virtual schools tend to show the least effective results in graduation rates, course completion, and test scores.  While full-time virtual schools enroll less than two percent of the nation’s public school population, that number is rapidly increasing, and much of the growth is with for-profit providers.

“A full-time experience is much different than one class, and the overall data for full-time virtual schools tends to be where the wheels fall off,” Barth said. “Most of the research we found raises serious questions about the accountability and monitoring of some of these schools.”

The report also examines the funding streams of four states: Colorado, Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, and the researchers found that in most cases funding is not based on the actual cost to educate a child through virtual schools. Determining budgets—and sometimes, enrollments—of virtual schools is often difficult.

The report gives school board members and the public a list of questions to ask to ensure their taxpayer’s funds are being used by programs that produce better results for students.

The report was written by Barth, the Center’s Managing Editor Rebecca St. Andrie, and the Center’s Senior Policy Analyst Jim Hull.

 

Lawrence Hardy|May 14th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Computer Uses in Education, Curriculum, Educational Technology, High Schools, Online learning, Privatization, School Board News, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

Free webinar for school leaders on technology innovation

As school leaders, you are responsible for creating technology plans and approving technology purchases. As you know, the potential for the Web to engage students and build personalized global learning models is incredible. With increased attention to online and blended learning models, the key to success for schools is to incorporate the Web and new technology in a way that is simple yet robust, manageable, and scalable.

Where to start? You can join American School Board Journal and Google for a free webinar, Scaling Technology in Education. In this webinar, you will discover the new roles of the Internet in schools, classrooms, and other education environments. How can technology and the Internet help students learn the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century? You will learn how to manage and scale that technology from the classroom to the entire school system.

The webinar will held Thursday, May 3, at 3 p.m. EDT. To register, go to http://lp.google-mkto.com/nsbj_registration.html

Kathleen Vail|May 1st, 2012|Categories: Educational Technology|Tags: , |

Ed tech tours, programming focus on innovation

The National School Boards Association’s commitment to education technology is on full display during Annual Conference, where half-day workshops and off-site activities provide attendees an opportunity to see innovation in action and in diverse settings.

The activities are slightly different than the spring series of Education Technology Site Visits, which showcase innovative practices in school districts that belong to NSBA’s Technology Leadership Network, a cutting-edge cadre of more than 200 school districts, education agencies, and colleges of education.

Previous conference attendees have had a behind-the-scenes look at everyone from NASA and the Disney Corporation to Google and the United States Navy. This year’s offerings are no less impressive. Building on Boston’s historic roots and trail blazing ways, NSBA’s 2012 education technology programs include a series of inspiring, sold out tours.

“We look for things at the intersection of technology, creative management and innovation,” said Ann Flynn, NSBA’s director of education technology programs.

On Friday, for instance, attendees toured the new, LEED-certified Plymouth North High School to talk with students, school board members, community members, and architects on the design process community involvement in the project, before moving on to a working lunch at the Plimoth Plantation, where they learned how take their students to such sites through “virtual field trips.”

Today, board members will participate in a student-led walking tour through Harvard Yard, followed by a briefing on innovative technology practices that support 21st-century learning and international collaboration in a TelePresence classroom.

And on Monday, registrants will walk the halls of TechBoston Academy, a sixth- through 12th-grade pilot school in the Boston Public Schools. Founded in 2002 with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the school offers a college preparatory curriculum where technology is the bridge that connects the students to their learning experience. Unique features include laptops for every student, extended-day programs, a project-based curriculum, and strong community, business, and university partnerships.

“At Annual Conference, we provide a snapshot of education technology that we believe is worthy of their time and allows them to take home best practices,” Flynn said. “But we hope and encourage them to come to the spring series of education technology site visits so they can get a more in-depth look at innovation across all levels and grades and what that innovation means for systemic change.”

Naomi Dillon|April 20th, 2012|Categories: Educational Technology, Technology Leadership Network|

Town Hall meeting looks at virtual learning

A new report by NSBA’s Center for Public Education, Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools, puts online education in perspective with this statistic: “Americans currently consume 3.6 zettabytes of digital information a day.” That’s 3.6 to the 21st power, or “the equivalent in paper stacked seven feet high across the U.S., including Alaska.”

“The place of digital content in public education is therefore not a matter of debate,” says the report, which was distributed Friday at NSBA’s Delegate Assembly. “It is inevitable.”

That was also the message at the Delegate Assembly’s hour-long “Town Hall” session Friday morning on virtual learning. As far as board members are concerned, there are some encouraging aspects to virtual learning and some serious concerns as well. What they cannot afford to do is stand idle while this technological revolution unfolds, said Liz Pape, president and CEO of the nonprofit Virtual High School Global Consortium (VHS). To do so, to let others come to the table – or, more accurately, tables – that are shaping the development of virtual learning, would be to “be on the menu,” Pape said.

One more statistic: By 2019, Pape said, half of all high school courses will be on the Internet. Whether those courses support and enhance what public schools do, or detract from their core mission is something board members must have a voice in deciding.

Virtual learning has many advantages. Students who want to take AP courses that conflict with their regular high school schedules can take them online, Pape said. Other students can use online courses for credit recovery — and go at their own pace. Intelligently done, virtual learning allows for differentiated instruction and personalization.

However, one concern is the proliferation of for-profit vendors who are entering the digital learning market.

“Folks, if you don’t think this is about following the money, you’d better think again,” said Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association.

In 1997, Florida started the first statewide public online school, Florida Virtual School, Blanton said, and now there are 2.7 million students taking online courses.

Rick Lewis, executive director of the Ohio School Boards Association, said there is a big push among lawmakers in his state to attract more education entrepreneurs.

The growth in of online schools in Colorado also has been phenomenal, said Ken DeLay, executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards. Unlike Ohio, which funds schools based on average monthly attendance, “virtual charters in Colorado are receiving funds for students they are not educating,” the Center report says.

“Once the ‘count date’ passes” in the fall, “they go somewhere else,” DeLay said. “It causes some of us to be cynical and say it’s all about the money, but that’s not always true.”

 

Lawrence Hardy|April 20th, 2012|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Annual Conference 2012|

2012 Magna Awards honors Missouri, New York, and Pennsylvania school districts

Missouri’s Maplewood Richmond Heights School District, New York’s Monroe-Woodbury Central School District, and Pennsylvania’s Pittsburgh Public Schools have been named the grand prize winners in the American School Board Journal’s (ASBJ) 18th annual Magna Awards program.

The Magna Awards are supported by Sodexo School Services. Each of the grand prize-winning school districts will receive $4,000 in scholarship money during a special presentation at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Annual Conference, to be held April 21-23 in Boston.

The Magna Awards recognize districts across the country for outstanding programs that advance student learning and encourage community involvement in schools. This year’s three grand prize, 15 first place, and 15 honorable mention winners were selected from three enrollment categories: less than 5,000 students, 5,000 to 20,000 students, and over 20,000 students.

“The Magna Awards exemplifies strong school board leadership, creativity, and commitment to student achievement in public education,” said Anne L. Bryant, ASBJ’s publisher and executive director of NSBA. “This year’s Magna Awards recipients truly showcase the best practices and innovative school programs that are advancing student success.”

“Sodexo is proud to create learning-friendly environments that allow our partner districts to focus on doing what they do best—educating our children,” said Steve Dunmore, president of Sodexo Education-Schools. “We are honored to sponsor the Magna Awards and want to celebrate all school boards and communities that share in the commitment to further student well-being and achievement.”

Here is information on the grand prize entries:

• The Maplewood Richmond Heights School District in Maplewood, Mo., earned the grand prize in the under 5,000 enrollment category for its outreach program for homeless high school students. School district officials worked with local churches and community volunteers to create Joe’s Place—a shelter for homeless male high school students. The shelter provides students with counseling and a caring home environment. Of the 14 students served by Joe’s Place, 13 have graduated from high school or on track to graduate. Six former Joe’s Place residents are attending college, one has joined the Navy, and two more are employed full-time.

• The Monroe-Woodbury Central School District in Central Valley, N.Y., is being honored as the grand prize winner in the 5,000 to 20,000 enrollment category for an outreach program at an elementary school that serves a community with a large immigrant population. School district officials, with support from the school board, developed “English as a Second Language Family Night,” a program that provides literacy training for students and their parents twice a week. While the literacy skills of both parents and students improved, more parents volunteered for class activities. Parents also were more comfortable expressing themselves to school staff members.

• The Pittsburgh (Pa.) Public Schools are being honored as the grand prize winner in the over 20,000 enrollment category for its outreach program aimed at increasing the participation of fathers and other male role models in the district’s schools. “Take a Father to School Day” is an annual event which invites fathers, grandfathers, and other male role models to spend a day at their child’s school. Since 2007, the number of fathers attending the event has climbed from 3,669 to 5,964 in 2011. The event was founded by Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Board Member Mark Brentley as a “call to action” for men to become more involved in their children’s lives.

ASBJ initiated the Magna Awards in 1995 to recognize school boards for taking bold and innovative steps to improve their educational programs. An independent panel of school board members, administrators, and other educators selected the winners from 300 submissions. This year’s nominations came from 44 states.

In additional to the grand prize winners, these school districts are also being honored:

Winners – Category 1 – under 5,000 enrollment
Balsz Elementary School District #31, Phoenix, Ariz.
Blue Ridge School District, New Milford, Pa.
North Salem Central School District, North Salem, N.Y.
Sanborn Regional School District, Kingston, N.H.
White Pine County School District, Ely, Nev.

Winners – Category 2 – 5,000-20,000 enrollment
Alexandria City Public Schools, Alexandria, Va.
Blue Springs School District, Blue Springs, Mo.
Boone County Schools, Florence, Ky.
Southfield Public Schools, Southfield, Mich.
Southwest Independent School District, San Antonio, Texas

Winners – Category 3 – over 20,000 enrollment
Johnston County Schools, Smithfield, N.C.
Newport News Public Schools, Newport News, Va. – 2 programs
Polk County Public Schools, Bartow, Fla.
School District of Osceola County, Kissimmee, Fla.

Honorable Mentions
Amelia County Public Schools, Amelia Courthouse, Va.
Bridgehampton Union Free School District, Bridgehampton, N.Y.
Lumberton Township Schools, Lumberton, N.J.
Oak Park Unified School District, Oak Park, Calif.
Petersburg City Public Schools, Petersburg, Va.
Clover Park School District, Lakewood, Wash.
Henderson County Schools, Henderson, Ky.
Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation, Mishawaka, Ind.
Topeka Public Schools, Topeka, Kan.
Williamsburg/James City County Public Schools, Williamsburg, Va.
Fairfax County Public Schools, Falls Church, Va.
Lafayette Parish School System, Lafayette, La.
Peoria Unified School District, Glendale, Ariz.
St. Tammany Parish Public School District, Covington, La.
Sweetwater Union High School District, Chula Vista, Calif.

The 2012 winners will be highlighted in a special supplement to the May issue of ASBJ, and will be formally recognized on Saturday, April 21, at the Best Practices for School Leaders Luncheon, which is part of NSBA’s 72nd Annual Conference.

In addition to the ASBJ supplement, all honrees will be posted on the Magna Awards website and added to the program’s searchable best practices database.

Alexis Rice|April 12th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Educational Technology, NSBA Annual Conference 2012, NSBA Publications, NSBA Recognition Programs, School Boards, Urban Schools|Tags: , , |

NSBA discusses transforming education through technology on Education Talk Radio

The National School Boards Association‘s (NSBA) Director of the Education Technology, Ann Flynn, and Project Facilitator for Nevada’s  Clark County School District, Margie Zamora, appeared on Education Talk Radio discussing how technology is transforming education.

NSBA’ Technology Leadership Network (TLN) host several site visits  throughout the school year showcasing outstanding use of educational technology.

Since 1987, TLN has served local district leadership teams that establish policy and implement technology decisions to enhance teaching and learning, administrative operations, and community outreach.

Through NSBA’s technology site visits, school leaders are able to see education technology innovation in action and develop their own successful initiatives. This is a great opportunity for school leaders to witness classrooms where curriculum goals drive technology decisions.

From April 25-27, 2012 NSBA will host a site visit in Clark County, the nation’s fifth largest with nearly 310,000 students, encompasses both Las Vegas and its outlying communities.

Ranked first in last year’s Digital School District Survey by the Center for Digital Education and NSBA , Clark County uses technology to provide enterprise systems that support the business of learning and provide engaging 21st century experiences for all students. From cyberbullying prevention initiatives and “bring your own device” pilot programs, to online professional development and extensive use of social networking systems, this visit offers examples of innovation that can be applied in districts of any size.

Listen to the show on Education Talk Radio:

Listen to internet radio with EduTalk on Blog Talk Radio
Alexis Rice|March 28th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Computer Uses in Education, Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA urges caution on virtual learning expansion

The National School Boards Association’s Executive Director Anne L. Bryant cautions lawmakers and school leaders to be wary of proposals to expand online learning and virtual schools in a commentary for the Huffington Post.

Bryant notes that while online learning can be beneficial for many types of schools and students, particularly those in small or rural schools, virtual schools are a “messy emerging field” with little data to evaluate their effectiveness.

“Until we have the data to show that virtual schools are meeting the challenge of educating our diverse populations of students, lawmakers must take a hard look at these schools and their sponsors, hold all parties to the same high standards as traditional public schools, and shut down any operations that are wasting students’ opportunities and taxpayer funds,” she writes.

In the midst of these fast-growing fields, conflicts of interest are not hard to find. Bryant notes a recent article by John Chubb, a visiting fellow at Hoover Institute and founder and chief executive officer of Leeds Global Partners, a firm with major financial investments in for-profit online learning institutions, calls for unlimited access to virtual schools and for state and local governments to pay those schools the same per-pupil amount as traditional public schools.

Read more in the Huffington Post.


Erin Walsh|March 26th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Educational Technology, Online learning|

Preparing students for a ‘future we can’t describe’

David Warlick was riding a train from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., when a rustic stone pyramid in the landscape caught his eye. He snapped a picture with his phone’s camera, then posted it on Twitter and asked if anyone knew what it was.

Within five minutes, a woman responded that it was a memorial to a Civil War general.

What makes this story so remarkable was that the woman who sent the information was in New Zealand, Warlick added.

The founder of the Landmark Project used this anecdote to show that technologies such as Twitter have completely — and rather suddenly — changed the way the world communicates and obtains information. Those ways are particularly compelling to students, and school board members must find ways to harness – not ban — these technologies to understand the youngest generation and teach them more effectively.

Educators repeatedly have been given the message to embrace technology in education. But figuring out what that means—and what to do about it—remains an elusive goal for school board members.

Warlick shared his thoughts in an interactive session at the final session of NSBA’s Leadership Conference Sunday. Attendees shared their reactions online during the presentation in a Twitter-like chat room called Knitterchat.com, which Warlick created. He uses the Knitterchat platform not only as a way to further discussions and answer questions from participants but also as an example of how students use technology to access information.

Today’s students “have almost no formative recollection of 20th century. They are 21st century learners,” he said. “Yet they are still learning in 19th century classrooms.”

Warlick showed examples of his college-age son’s videography and texting as ways the younger generations use technologies to gain information and communicate. Rather than fear cell phones, social media, and video games, educators should use them as classroom tools, Warlick said.

“Things have to change — we are for the first time in history preparing children for a future we can’t describe,” he said. “So what do our children need to be learning for an uncertain future?”

For one, education policy experts have repeatedly emphasized the need for more classes tied to STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—subjects because so many future jobs will be in those fields. But Warlick argued for a similar emphasis on creative arts, including music, drama, and culture.

Not only will those classes stimulate learning in STEM topics and other areas, but these students will be prepared for careers that require creative arts skills to support STEM fields, such as designers for the casings of new technology products.

He suggested questions that school board members should ask, including, “What are the children learning that I didn’t learn?” and, “How the schools are using this new information environment to touch their communities?”

For more information on Warlick’s work, visit http://landmark-project.com.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 5th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Arts Education, Educational Technology, Leadership Conference 2012|Tags: , , |

Education technology: Game changer

Only four out of 10 ninth-graders today graduate from high school ready for college or the workplace—and it’s going to take a more thoughtful, strategic use of technology to change that equation.

That was the message of Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, who spoke Sunday at NSBA’s Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.

More attention must be paid to technology because limited financial resources and demographic trends are likely to force schools to hire fewer, younger, and less-experienced teachers in the years ahead, he said. Technology will prove a useful tool to help these teachers maximize their time and instructional effort.

But the promise of technology will only be kept if school leaders are smart about its use, Wise warned. Technology is not simply about adding laptops or Internet connections to classrooms.

“If you do that, you accomplish nothing but the spending of a lot of money,” he said. “What is required is a conscious strategy. When talking about districts where the technology is not working and large amounts of money were spent, you’re looking at a district that did not develop a conscious strategy beforehand.”

To emphasize his point, Wise showed his audience two slides: one of a classroom of a hundred students sitting in an amphitheater-style classroom with laptops in front of them; the other of a classroom where students were organized in small groups, with the teacher standing amidst half a dozen students, each working on their own laptop project.

The more intimate setting was the more reassuring, he noted. The scene suggested students were receiving personalized instruction. They were more engaged in individual instruction and advancing at their own pace, with an instructor available to answer questions, track individual student progress, and ready to step in when students faltered.

Any discussion of successful technology in schools won’t focus gadgets and software, he added. “It’s about the teaching, the pedagogy. We want technology to enhance teachers … We want technology matched with what teachers teach to allow them to do what couldn’t be done before.”

That’s going to take a lot of thoughtful planning—and school boards are just the entity to see that happen, Wise told conference attendees. One of the strengths of technology is that it can be adapted to variety of settings, and school boards are best positioned to determine what adaptations are needed for their school settings and student populations.

“During the next several years, the local school board will be the main agent for change,” Wise told School Board News after his presentation. “They will provide the innovation … school boards are where the rubber meets the road, and they’ll create the future education laboratories to help us find what works.”

Del Stover|February 5th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Dropout Prevention, Educational Technology, Leadership Conference 2012|Tags: , , , , |
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