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  • One Son Took a Gap Year, the Other Didn't: Mom Says 'They're Both Fine'

    by LearnEd

    Various travel items on a desk

    Two Boys, Two Pathways to College

    Amanda Murray has two sons:

    Christian is between his Masters and PhD in bioinformatics and computational chemistry. (We had to look it up, too. Here's a link to his undergraduate program at the University of Toronto.)

    Nicholas is a couple of months away from graduation at the University of Toronto with a degree in political science.

    Years earlier, Christian went straight to college out of high school.

    Nicholas—after visiting a few colleges as a high school senior—told his parents one day: "I don't think I'm quite ready."

    read himself

    Talking About a Year Off

    From her Pearson office in Toronto, Amanda recalls being skeptical at first.

    "Neither his father nor I were on board," she says. "We were worried that he wouldn't ever go back to college."

    "But after talking to him," Amanda says, "we began to understand that he had a plan. He was able to read himself better than us."

    More Prepared for College

    Nicholas had been a standout tennis player in high school. He'd even been offered a tennis scholarship to attend college.

    "He wasn't sure if he was ready to dive in to tennis like he'd been doing," Amanda says. "He wanted to take some time off, work on his SAT scores, and think things through."

    "He worked during his time before college and realized he'd rather coach tennis than play tennis," Amanda says. "So with new aspirations to study education and political science, he managed to get in to a great university and really apply himself in a way that I thought he never could."

    Students Needing Clarity, With No Time to Find It

    "There's such inertia for high school students to go to college," says Abby Falik, founder and CEO of Global Citizen Year. The organization offers high school graduates a solution to the inertia:

    "It’s called a bridge year, a Global Citizen Year, which is an international immersion designed to give high school graduates perspective, confidence and purpose prior to college. A bridge year is a real world classroom – no walls, no textbooks…just life through a global lens."

    care about

    "Without an experience like this," Abby says, "so many students have no time to pause and reflect and understand who they are and what they care about."

    "They get to the end of college," she says, "and they're still unclear about what to do next."

    The Global Citizen Year Approach

    "I hate the term 'gap year,'" Abby says. "It's not a gaping hole in someone's life. We need to reframe the metaphor to better reflect what the year, when used constructively, can be: a 'bridge year' or a 'launching pad.'"

    "We all have a comfort zone," Abby says. "We have a panic zone as well. In between the two is the 'stretch zone' where real learning happens."

    "For a lot of kids, being stretched is simply getting out of the classroom which inevitably leads to questions about who we are and who we're becoming," she says.

    "The unifying theme for our programs is that kids get the most out of their bridge year if they start with the end in mind," Abby says. "What are the questions they want to answer at the end of the year?"

    "And at the end of the year," she says, "we want them to arrive at a whole new set of questions to guide their college education—and beyond."

    Bundling Bridge Years Into College Degree Programs

    Abby hopes that this kind of approach to bridge years can be a part of re-thinking higher education.

    "I'm convinced my kids will not go to a traditional four-year college," she says.

    "How can we integrate deep experiential learning into higher education?" Abby asks. "Can the concept of a bridge year be bundled in to what leads up to a college degree?"

    Abby says this approach has to be designed to address traditional criticisms about access and privilege.

    "That's why 80-percent of our Fellows get financial aid and a third of them are given full, need-based funding," Abby says. "

    "The whole system has to benefit all kinds of students."

    found the time

    Needing Time to Grow Up

    For Amanda Murray, she's equally proud of both her sons.

    "Don't think that Nicholas' brother, Christian, didn't have his own zig zags along the way," Amanda says. "They've both been successful even though they've done things very differently."

    "Both of them needed—and found the time—to pause and grow up in their own ways," she says.

    "And I needed to learn how to trust them."

     

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  • A Pioneer in Re-Designing Higher Education

    by LearnEd

    Small crowd talking to each other in a big hall

    Pearson CEO John Fallon delivered the commencement address to this year's graduating class of Southern New Hampshire University. In the following excerpt, John highlights the groundbreaking work SNHU is has done in re-defining higher education.


    Pearson CEO John Fallon talks with Southern New Hampshire University graduates after giving the commencement address at the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester, N.H. Sunday, May 15, 2016. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Pearson)
    Pearson CEO John Fallon talks with Southern New Hampshire University graduates after giving the commencement address at the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester, N.H. Sunday, May 15, 2016. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Pearson)

    last century

    New Century, New Challenges

    "The vast majority of colleges are still offering an education designed a long time ago to meet the challenges of the last century. The challenges of this century are different, but most colleges are finding it difficult to respond."

    "Many of them are still telling students what they have available, and students have the choice of taking it or leaving it."

    "But this university is a pioneer. It doesn’t decide for you what you’re going to get; it asks you what you need. Based on your answers, you and your university are re-designing higher education together."

    A New Kind of Excellent Education

    "You are keeping the best parts of the old model and experimenting with promising new approaches and technologies. You are finding creative ways to meet the challenges of this century—the challenges that you face in your day-to-day lives."

    "You are the ones who said, Wait! I have eyes. I see a way to connect my education to my career path. I can be interested in earning money and in indulging my curiosity, in enriching my knowledge, in learning more about the world around me."

    relevant

    "You are the ones who said, Wait! Why do I have to sit in a specific room in a specific building for a specific amount of time? I have the guts to use new tools to learn in more convenient and dynamic ways—and, by the way, I’ll finish when I’m actually finished, not when the clock runs out."

    "You are the ones who said, Wait! I don’t have to go into debt for the rest of my life to get an excellent education. I can afford to take care of my responsibilities now and train my mind for the future."

    'A School is Where People Learn'

    "I called you pioneers, because what you are doing is daring and new. But it’s more than that. You are not off on an island being different by yourselves. The world is paying attention, and starting to follow your example."

    "So you are pioneers—and you are leaders, too. You are leading us to a new future in which a high-quality education is affordable, convenient, and relevant. And in which it is more personal, too ... not every student learns in the same way, and we need to bring learning to people, not people to learning."

    "A school, a university, is not a building, it is a place where people learn."

    John Fallon Commencement
    Pearson CEO John Fallon during the commencement address to this year's graduating class of Southern New Hampshire University.

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  • New Insights About 'Adaptive Learning': What It Is And How It Works

    by LearnEd

    Kid working at a computer

    Through the Open Ideas at Pearson series, Pearson has been collaborating with some of the best minds in education to showcase forward-looking, independent insights on the big, unanswered questions in education. The latest report, "Decoding Adaptive," published in collaboration with the team at EdSurge, is the culmination of six months of research, interviews, and analysis on the current state of digital adaptive learning tools. This story is a summary of that report.


    A Helpful Starting Point: What Is An Adaptive Learning Tool?

    Not all learning technology is adaptive.

    The "Decoding Adaptive" report offers a simple definition of 'adaptive learning' technology because the phrase means different things to different practitioners:

    "We define adaptive learning tools as education technologies that can respond to a student's interactions in real-time by automatically providing the student with individual support. ... Adaptive learning tools collect specific information about individual students' behaviors by tracking how they answer questions. The tool then responds to each student by changing the learning experience to better suit that person's needs, based on their unique and specific behaviors and answers."

    reaching kids

    "Teachers are increasingly attempting to reach all of their students, each of whom have distinct learning needs, with the right learning experience at the right time," writes education innovator Michael B. Horn in the report's foreword. "Having effective software turbocharges those efforts and can provide a realistic pathway to accomplish that goal."

    "The tools, however, are not a panacea," he writes. "It's unlikely that a single tool will ever be able to take over a student's education ... helping students own their learning, make decisions, become lifelong learners, and develop their metacognitive skills."

    Catching Up and 'Unshackled'

    The report profiles two schools using adaptive learning technology.

    The first is Aspire ERES Academy in Oakland, California.

    Students there spend up to a quarter of their day (50 to 80 minutes in total) using online tools. In one second-grade classroom, a teacher spends 15 to 30 minutes with each of his students every Friday to talk through their progress and problems uncovered through their adaptive learning work.

    At the second school, Joseph Weller Elementary School in Milpitas, California, 40-percent of the students are English language learners. A large portion of them perform at proficient or better levels, according to California standards.

    "For us, the decision to use adaptive technology was about helping underachievers catch up," district superintendent Cary Matsuoka told the report's researchers. "And it was about helping kids take responsibility for their own learning."

    unshackled

    "Just as gratifying," Matsuoka says, "is watching gifted students race ahead, unshackled for the first time in their school careers."

     How These Tools Do the Adapting

    "Decoding Adaptive" also documents EdSurge's research to understand how and when adaptive learning tools actually change a student's learning experience.

    They found that the way a tool adapts can be categorized in three ways:

    Adaptive CONTENT

    "When a student makes an error, tools with adaptive content respond with feedback and hints based on the student's specific misunderstanding. ... They also take individual skills and break them down into smaller pieces, depending on how a student responds, without changing the overall sequence of skills."

    Adaptive ASSESSMENT

    "These tools change the questions a student sees, based on his or her response to the previous question. The difficulty of questions will increase as a student answers them accurately. If the student struggles, the questions will get easier."

    Adaptive SEQUENCE

    "Tools with 'adaptive sequence' have a lot going on behind the scenes. These tools are continuously collecting and analyzing student data to automatically change what a student sees next; from the order of skills a student works on, to the type of content a student receives."

    An example of an adaptive sequence, as illustrated in "Decoding Adaptive."
    An example of an adaptive sequence, as illustrated in "Decoding Adaptive."

    "If a learner was not in class during a period when a particular skill was introduced and years later was learning a new skill that built on that prior knowledge, that learner would struggle. Adaptive sequencing tools could help that student go back and find this gap and learn this content first, rather than in the same sequence as everyone else."

    Product Reviews

    According to the report, the edtech market is flooded by tools that offer, or claim to offer, adaptive learning features.

    Its researchers road-tested 24 different adaptive learning tools. The findings are helpful for educators assessing technologies for use in their classrooms:

    "It's one thing to recommend a skill, but it's another to recommend a skill and the best piece of content for learning that skill. Of the tools we researched that have adaptive sequencing, only 30% take the extra step of recommending content that's proven to be the best for students."

    "Answering a question correctly is important, but so is the process it took to get there. Some adaptive tools can collect data on how students learn and use it to create a more complex picture of students' abilities."

    "One of the benefits of large amounts of data on how students learn is being able to compare how educators think students learn, to how they actually learn. One way that adaptive tools are helping to do this is by capturing the order of skills that students are actually using to learn content."

    What This Means for the Classroom

    The students entering America’s classrooms come from more diverse backgrounds and bring a wider set of needs and abilities than ever before in history. By contrast, funding for schools grows modestly at best. In most segments of life, when we’ve tried to do more with the same (or fewer) resources, we’ve invented tools to help."

    "Adaptive learning is alluring ... because it's aligned to an educator's ultimate goal of helping every student achieve his or her maximum potential through differentiation," the report continues.

    "There are also many challenges .... Most adaptive tools are used in learning environments that are led by teachers, which means they need to be able to work in harmony with teachers as the leader."

    Adds Michael B. Horn in his foreword:

    "This technology can accelerate our knowledge of what learning experiences work best ... so that educators can adapt to a reality in which they can help all children find their passions and reach their fullest potential."

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John Fallon

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