“We give students a real-life certification, in their hands that they can go and get a job after they leave the high school.” – Laura Deshazo, Utah State Office of Education
Skills have become the global currency of 21st-century economies. In a world where competition for jobs, pay increases, and academic success continues to increase, certifications offer an advantage as a credible, third-party assessment of one’s skill and knowledge of a given subject.
The value of certification
According to educationdata.org, national student loan debt has skyrocketed from 3.3 billion in 2003 to over 1.75 trillion in 2021. Industry certifications offer an affordable alternative for students to demonstrate their knowledge and credentials to pursue career opportunities without accumulating large debt.
Certification provides other significant advantages to candidates, including:
validation of knowledge
increased marketability, earning power, and confidence
Certification also offers specific benefits to high school-aged students. According to the Florida CAPE Performance Report, certification provides tangible improvements in academic performance, including:
higher grade point average for certified high school students: 3.12 vs 2.78 (4.0 scale)
higher graduation rates for certified high school students: 97.5% vs 78.4%
increased post-secondary enrollment: 84% vs 82%
reduced dropout rates: 0.2% vs 1.0%
Picking the right certification
Now that we know how valuable certification can be, let’s discuss how we can start. There are thousands of skills that students can learn and hundreds of certifications that they can obtain. Where is the best place to start? What are some of the foundational skills that students must learn?
Showing your creativity with Adobe Certified Professional
Adobe® Certified Professional is a suite of seven certifications. Each certification measures the candidate’s skills and knowledge with the corresponding Adobe Creative Cloud application, such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere Pro.
“By teaching and certifying students in these creative tools, we are not only teaching technical skills but also the ways to think and problem solve creatively,” says Erica Blum, Associate Professor of Arts and Design at Lindenwood University.
“These tools are not only for professional designers or artists. In fact, most of my students are not pursuing design as their career. But by learning how to use these tools, they are learning how to visualize what they envision. They are learning how to communicate and problem solve creatively.”
Using effective training and certification preparation tools
Achieving Adobe Certified Professional certification can be challenging. Using the most effective training and certification preparation tools is essential. Pearson has launched new, online programs designed specifically to meet the needs of students hoping to earn their Certified Professional certification in a variety of Adobe applications.
The pandemic threw the Needles Unified School District a curveball. They weren’t prepared. No one was. But when businesses shuttered and life slowed down, educators, parents and caregivers found another level. And they found a renewed sense of community, a focus on academics, and a new playbook for schooling post-pandemic.
Introducing The Pearson Race & Ethnicity Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Guidelines
In February of 2021, Pearson issued additional guidance to complement our Pearson Global Editorial Policy. These guidelines serve as a resource to help content developers—including authors, reviewers, and editors—create authentic representations of the diverse communities we serve, and challenge racial and other stereotypes and associated prejudices in all Pearson courseware, digital materials, services, qualifications, and assessments. They will be used in the process of developing new educational content as well as the review of existing content across all Pearson products, including Career & Technical Education curriculum.
The Value of Diversity in Education
When students join the workforce, they will encounter a variety of individuals with a vast range of backgrounds and abilities. To be successful, they will need to have a mindset that accepts and adapts to people of different cultures, values, backgrounds, and experiences. Further, as the global economy accelerates, sound business decision-making requires a constant awareness of cultural differences and sensitivities. As these students advance in their careers, a fair, harmonized workplace will increasingly become their responsibility.
Challenges Publishers Face When Addressing Bias in CTE Programs
As a publisher we are cognizant of several challenges to ensuring diverse and equitable representation in educational programs:
Underrepresentation - People of different identities should be represented in all program components and be portrayed as equal and active participants in education and workplace settings. We choose texts and imagery that enable as many students as possible to identify with the content and feel included in the learning process.
Negative Associations - We are reviewing existing content for unintentional or nuanced stereotypes. For example, does a construction content provide adequate inclusion of workers including women and people with physical disabilities? Another example would be equitable representation of different ethnic races in health sciences programs. When developing new content, an additional level of conscious inclusion should be added to the traditional development process.
Limited Positive Associations - We strive to present an authentic and diverse representation of people in roles that disrupt traditional stereotypes within instructional materials. CTE programs often include career profile features that provide an excellent opportunity to depict people of all cultures and abilities as role models or highlight their accomplishments. We commit to doing the additional research necessary to help break down stereotypes and show that career opportunities and leadership roles are not limited by race, gender, gender expression, ethnicity, or age, just to name a few, to help reinforce the understanding for today’s CTE students that people of different cultures are leaders and innovators.
Impact of Pearson Global Editorial Policy and Guidelines on our CTE Product Development Process
The CTE Editorial Team at Pearson uses the guide to focus on diversity principles including:
Ensuring all team members are aware of the potential for subtle or unconscious bias in developing student content and program outcomes.
Deliberately seeking reliable sources for diverse perspectives in all authoring and research done during the development process.
Representing people of different races, cultures, ethnicities, religious beliefs, and abilities in all student materials as equal and active participants in the learning process.
Choosing imagery that reflects the diversity of the classroom.
Presenting people in roles that disrupt traditional stereotypes.
Providing teachers the tools they need to understand and adapt to any classroom, regardless of student makeup. For example, many of Pearson’s programs include Teacher’s Editions with lesson plans for Advanced, Less Advanced, English Language Learner, and Special Needs students.
Making a Difference in the CTE Community
Beyond the considerations taken in content development, there are a number of other practices CTE publishers, including Pearson, integrate into their daily business that can make a further difference:
Include diversity in all initiatives and interactions with student and teacher associations.
Leverage diverse practices in developing marketing programs and highlight diversity, equity and inclusion as a foundation of CTE programs.
Pearson's role is to create learning products that encourage critical thinking and help people understand the world around them. We are committed to developing products and services that represent the authentic histories and experiences of learners. Pearson is committed to creating equity and opportunity for all through education (regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, social class, geographical location, religious beliefs, and disability). We are continuously working to ensure our CTE programs reflect this.
Promote smooth instructional delivery transitions for dual enrollment math
High school dual enrollment teachers moving fully online from a face-to-face setting during COVID had the added challenge of remaining in sync with their college partners, but classes already using Pearson’s MyMathLab for School’s (MMLS) online platform pre-pandemic have hardly missed a beat.
As the pandemic hit, educators asked:
How do we keep students engaged?
How do we provide ample practice opportunities?
How do we monitor student progress?
How do we administer assessments?
How do we make ourselves fully available to our students?
How do we help our students accomplish their learning goals?
And as a dual enrollment course, how do we maintain continuity with our post-secondary partner institution?
Pre-COVID use of MyMathLab for School helped smooth transition to remote
For some teachers the transition to remote learning was a smooth one because their dual enrollment courses already used Pearson’s MyMathLab for School (MMLS). David Woods, Ryan Skyta, and Lauren Morris are all high school math instructors teaching dual enrollment college algebra courses in partnership with Louisiana State University (LSU). Each of these teachers utilized MMLS prior to COVID and acknowledge the multiple benefits the program has provided them and their students during the pandemic.
Having prior experience with MMLS benefited both students and teachers, according to Ryan Skyta, math teacher at Brother Martin High School in New Orleans:
“I feel like since we, as an entire school, used the program before the pandemic, within every department in our school, we were probably in the best shape because the kids regularly have used the program for the past couple of years, so they are very familiar with it. We didn’t have to train them on how to use it and it was an easy transition.”
...And helped relieve teacher stress
The pandemic created ever fluctuating circumstances for educators. Being equipped with a fully sustainable, comprehensive online environment like MMLS can relieve some of the tension, worry, and uncertainty. For David Woods, dual enrollment math teacher at Liberty Magnet High School in Baton Rouge, having used MMLS for years prior to the pandemic eased the considerable amount of stress he felt while transitioning to remote instruction. He believes it could have done the same for others, as he heard firsthand how other teachers struggled and it made him thankful for the multiple resources MMLS offered him and his students.
“I can’t reiterate enough the fact that MyMathLab for School allowed us to have such a smooth transition. I know I have a lot of colleagues around the country that were struggling. How am I going to assess my students? How am I going to provide them this opportunity? Does anybody know anything that’s out there that my students could possibly be doing, or that I can be using as a teacher? MyMathLab for School was a huge component in sparing me from that because we already had a digital platform that the students could continue to use that was already equipped with videos, activities, lessons, quizzes, and assessments. We could just roll through it and since we were already using it, there was no learning curve.”
“View an example” and “Help Me Solve This” features help students work independently
Lauren Morris, dual enrollment math teacher and department chair at St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge, found the View an Example and Help Me Solve This features were the most impactful and heavily utilized aspects of MMLS once fully remote. Lauren noted that students relied greatly on those features because they were no longer in the classroom asking questions and receiving immediate responses from teachers. She felt it gave them resources to rely on, when needed.
View an Example helped Ryan Skyta’s students work independently at home.
“If we didn’t have MyMathLab for School we certainly would have had much bigger issues when it came to students trying to figure things out. They love the View an Example feature when it comes to doing their homework. That was definitely a huge advantage.”
Whether fully remote, hybrid, or face-to-face, the Pearson MMLS online platform offers students stability and dual enrollment teachers' confidence their courses maintain rigor and remain in sync with their college partners.
Top tips, techniques, and advice for making the most of online learning
There are so many unanswered questions for families right now. On top of the usual parental concerns, we’re now having to face the reality that our children might be doing some (or all) of their learning from home, often, in front of a screen.
Like most parents I wonder what impact this might have on my daughter. Will it impact her development? I wonder what this might mean for her social skills? What about her future opportunities? I will also admit to worrying that all of this time in isolation might be making her go a little bit wild and feral? But mostly, I think how best can I support her while still maintaining my own sanity?
These, and many more questions, are what so many of us are struggling with right now.
If you are keeping up with the real time changes in the UK, there is a growing likelihood that online learning will become our reality again in the near future. If you are elsewhere in the world, you might not have left the first phase of the rush to online. Reflecting this, I want to help parents prepare and cope effectively. As both a parent and as Pearson’s Chief Learning Officer, I’ve written these tips with both my heart and my head. Everything I’m sharing is based on research, but most importantly – I hope these insights will help make any future online learning experience a bit more manageable.
Most importantly, encourage your child to talk to you about what they are feeling and respond with empathy and understanding. It’s an uncertain, and often frightening time right now; we need to show our children that we’re here for them. Children are receptive to learning when they feel safe and secure.
Make a plan that helps achieve outcomes
In the world of learning, “outcomes” is a word used quite often; it refers to the learning goals that students are meant to achieve. Whether learning takes place online or face to face, it’s all about students achieving the outcomes that will set them up for success. The outcome might be to understand a topic, develop a skill, or for students to socially develop and connect with peers. Get clear on what these outcomes are for your child, based on what they want to learn, what their teacher’s goals are, and how you as a parent can support. If your child’s learning moves online, make sure you know:
What are your child’s learning goals (AKA outcomes)?
What other outcomes should your child be focused on, such as improving their critical thinking skills or ability to collaborate with others?
What are the expectations of you, as a parent, for helping your child make progress towards these outcomes?
I know many parents have decided to supplement what their school provides through additional online learning experiences. It’s important to keep outcomes in mind if you select learning technology for your child; identify the outcome your child needs to achieve and make sure there is evidence that the product you choose has a positive impact on the outcome you’ve identified.
Students usually work best within routines. Work with your child to set the expectations for completing schoolwork and attending classes.
Ensure you know the expectations that the teacher has for completing their schoolwork from home and how teachers can be reached. Preview lessons, assignments, and don’t miss any live lessons.
Prepare a schedule of what needs to be completed each day/week. Part of effective scheduling is building breaks into the day and not trying to put too much learning into one block. A general rule of thumb is 30 to 50 minutes of learning and then a break for older students. Learning should take place in smaller chunks for younger pupils.
If you are working from home, make sure your child knows when you are available and unavailable to help them. Setting clear boundaries is essential for your sanity and for your child’s self-esteem.
Embrace the fact that online learning does not mean your child only learns in front of a computer. Given educators have to focus on achieving a variety of outcomes, you should expect that activities will adjust based on the best way to achieve each outcome. Activities might range from being given several links to follow at the student’s own pace, being asked to do some practice work, or completing independent work offline.
Review and reflect on the day by asking your child to show you what they worked on and ask them a few questions about what they learned. This isn’t you “checking” their work; it’s you being curious about what they’ve done.
Help your child believe they can do it
Everyone is going to experience setbacks and frustrations. It’s key to try and see those moments as useful markers on a journey towards learning, rather than signs that it is time to give up. If students struggle with an assignment use statements such as:
Tell me what you’ve tried so far.
What else can you try?
What have you learned so far?
Remember to model this, as much as you can, for your child; if you get frustrated and shut down when something unexpected happens (e.g., the technology doesn’t work like you think it will), your child may think that some things really are just too hard.
Help your child see the value
You may become accustomed to hearing the phrase that teachers have heard millions of times, “Why do I have to learn this?” It’s hard to stay motivated when you don’t see the value of what you are doing. Try to help your child connect what they are learning to things that are important to them. This might mean connecting learning to their interests (e.g., “well, if you understand averages you can follow your favorite footballer’s performance”) or helping them understand ways in which they could use what they are learning to help themselves or their friends and family (e.g., “could you use this lesson on photosynthesis to help us decide where it would be best to put our tomato plant?”). Students who learn to take charge of their own learning are often more successful.
Ensure there is a focus on individual progress and feedback
Every school will have a slightly different approach in terms of how they assess students. This will be even more true as schools grapple with online learning. As a parent, you need to make sure that your child’s knowledge and skills are being tracked in a meaningful and productive way. This should be a depiction of their individual progress (not how they compare to classmates). Ask your child’s school how progress will be shared with your child and with you.
On top of making sure that your child’s school is measuring progress, it’s essential that your child is receiving regular feedback on how they’re doing. No one can improve if we aren’t given regular, immediate information on what we did well and how we can get better. It’s important for you to recognise that feedback doesn’t have to be evaluative or for a grade; it can be as simple as a supportive check-in. Again, make sure you know how regular feedback will be provided to your child.
If you and your child don’t have a good grasp on not only the outcomes your child is meant to achieve, but also how they’re doing on their journey to achieve these outcomes – you should speak with your child’s teacher.
Provide opportunities for developing soft skills and social skills
Whether it’s communication, collaboration, or critical thinking – acquiring and developing these skills is just as important as enhancing knowledge. Much of your child’s time at school is about having fun, connecting with new ideas, and socialising with friends. During online learning, your child’s school will be building skills development into activities (e.g. problem solving, self management, social responsibility, etc.); but you can help make sure that you are fostering skills development outside of what the school is providing.
You can use technology to take virtual field trips to museums or foreign countries, play interactive games, and video call with friends and family. Or you can develop these skills without technology – have siblings work together to solve a problem (e.g. how can you earn enough money to buy that new video game) or have your child plan a new layout of their bedroom to maximise space.
Look after your own wellbeing
This is probably easier said than done, but try not to put too much pressure on yourself. You don’t have to become a professional educator; you are a parent. Communicate with your child, empathise with each other, and try to take some time for yourself. Adjusting to a new way of learning isn’t easy for anyone, but we’ll navigate it together.
If you have questions or want further support, Pearson can help.
“Hey, sorry. I was on mute.” It should be our new national t-shirt.
If you’ve said this recently, you’re in the club. You’re among the millions who have been working at home in the wake of the pandemic.
According to the Physicians Foundation, nearly half of all doctors are using telemedicine appointments. Nearly every teacher in the US this year made the switch to online learning. What do they have in common? The ability to connect emotionally with patients or students is proving to be a struggle.
“New Connections Academy teachers often learn that what makes them a great virtual teacher is their communication skills,” says Mickey Revenaugh, co-founder of Pearson’s Connections Academy, a full-time online school program for grades K-12.
Trying to be human through the lens of webcam may be the next big skills gap, as working from home continues for the foreseeable future. Over 7,000 people in seven countries agree – in Pearson’s Global Learner Survey, 77% of people said that teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic has taught me that working remotely requires different skills than working in an office. What are those skills? 89% say that people will need to develop more digital skills, such as virtual collaboration, virtual communication, analyzing data or managing remote team.
Two researchers from Pearson explain.
“Communication and collaboration are two soft skills that become even more important when working virtually,” says Elizabeth Moore, Director, Learning Research & Design. Although these skills have always been important for employees when in the office, they are even more crucial when answering the challenges posed by working solo in front of a computer screen.
“Communication is important but different in a virtual environment,” says Jessica Yarbro, PhD, Senior Research Scientist. “Formal communication has to be more important. You can’t just pop over and have an informal chat.”
But you can teach and learn digital communications. Mickey says that “Connections teachers are specially trained to excel in online teaching, especially how to engage students in an online classroom and use a full spectrum of communications. They understand how and when to reach out to students and their families.”
The norms of how we operate and engage with people at work are gone and being reset by emails, phone calls, texts and video meetings. But something gets lost in these technology-mediated communications. You just can’t read people’s social cues.
Here is what our experts suggest to build more empathy and keep your soft skills sharp while working at home:
1. Make an effort to keep your camera on
“The decision to have your camera on in meetings isn’t something to take lightly. It helps you pick up on someone’s facial expressions and also allows you to show with your own expressions that you are actively listening,” says Moore.
2. Be more direct, not less
Researchers say that while it may feel awkward, you may need to be more direct to get people to engage virtually. The researchers recommend you do more check-ins for what people are thinking and feeling. And use active listening skills – reflecting and summarizing not only what people are saying but their social cues too. Verbal cues like “let me play back what I think I hear you saying” or “I think I hear you saying” are ways to show empathy and make you sure you really understand what others are saying.
3. Practice active collaboration
“Collaboration is about building on each other’s ideas,” says Moore. “So think out loud, virtually, to let your teammates know what you’re thinking and what you mean, so that they can help.”
4. Address conflicts quickly and verbally
But of course, personal conflicts will happen. And if you can’t ask somebody to talk one-to-one over coffee to address an issue, what do you do?
“I think it is even more important to make a space to talk person-to-person, especially if there are conflicts in a virtual environment,” says Yarbro. She says take conversations off email and do a video call.
Some people will find themselves back in the office later in the year, but remote work isn’t going away entirely. There is no escape from needing develop your digital skills in this new world of work.
“This change has been really hard. But, we’re learning,” says Moore. “We will come out of this with a new and more flexible digital working skillset. There’ll be a more of an expectation that you’ll be polished and skilled in doing anything virtually.”
Now more than ever schools are turning to online learning, so why not utilize online learning platforms to help your program with accreditation?
NACEP accreditation recognizes programs that have consistently met or exceeded rigorous, peer-reviewed standards in six areas: Partnership, Curriculum, Faculty, Students, Assessment, and Program Evaluation. These program standards create a quality framework to ensure that students are taking authentic college courses for transcripted college credit while in high school. Becoming a NACEP accredited program requires the submission of a variety of evidence documenting practice, policy, and procedures that meet or exceed NACEP’s Standards. Online learning platforms, like those offered by Pearson, can be an important ally in working towards accreditation.
Alignment via online learning platforms
An accredited program ensures that college courses offered by high school teachers are as rigorous as courses offered on the college campus. Coordinating online platforms between the college and the high school keeps assignments aligned and curriculum tight. By having identical content, the programs are meeting equivalency standards and comparison criteria (exams, homework, lab exercises, essays, etc.). Grading policies and rubrics can be the same within digital platforms to ensure continuity (number of tries, points deducted per wrong answer, extra credit, rubrics provided within the platforms, etc.) which helps programs demonstrate alignment with NACEP’s Assessment and Curriculum Standards.
Embedded professional development
Providing the depth and breadth of professional development needed to keep dual enrollment faculty up-to-date can be a challenge. Pearson offers weekly, discipline-specific, live and on-demand webinars for MyLab® and Mastering® that cover registration, assignment creation, testing, best practices, and other topics that help meet training criteria. Plus, you have access to training documents like how-to videos and planning toolkits. These resources can assist with documenting faculty professional development to meet NACEP’s Faculty Standards.
Downloadable assessment data
Programs need fast access to accurate data reports that highlight key course performance metrics including student pass/fail rates, content mastery, assignment completion, and formative assessment scores. With online platforms, course data can easily be downloaded and exported to Microsoft® Excel files for detailed analysis, allowing programs to make data-driven decisions and laying the foundation for program evaluation.
Viable alternative to in-person labs and hands-on experiences
Online platforms offer alternative learning experiences for students, especially during COVID-19 when the flexibility of online learning is essential and budgets are being stretched. Pearson’s Mastering platform is one example of a versatile tool, providing virtual laboratory exercises and dissections that engage students as if they were in the physical lab space. Struggling to offer content because the high school laboratory lacks necessary equipment? Mastering can help bridge the gap so that all students have equivalent laboratory experiences.
In addition to science offerings in Mastering, MyLab provides less expensive, virtual experiences for other “hands-on” Career and Technical Education fields, including automotive technology, culinary science, carpentry, and more. Creating real options for hands-on exercises provides your program maximum flexibility in instruction to help students continue to thrive despite COVID disruption. MyLab and Mastering present dual enrollment programs with an opportunity to document the ways they ensure equivalent content, even in the midst of a rapid shift to online coursework.
Pearson: your accreditation ally
Our MyLab and Mastering online learning platforms offer all these important benefits to help you document your activities in preparation for NACEP accreditation, while also improving the student and teacher experience. In addition, instructors have maximum control over their course, offering the flexibility to easily create courses to fit program needs. Courses can be shared with colleagues and adjuncts, copied for next semester, linked to an LMS, and more.
With the uncertainty of COVID-19 weighing heavily on instructors and programs, a solid back-up plan is needed for online and remote learning that has academics integrated with realistic experiences. By partnering with Pearson for your dual enrollment program, you can get:
award-winning digital learning platforms that can be personalized for each student
online homework and tutorial services that engage students and improve results
preparation, intervention, and assessment diagnostics that gauge student readiness
technology and services to provide in-depth data and analytics for your program
college and career readiness tools that promote personal and social skills
Caroline is a Pennsylvania middle school student who loves science, sailing, reading fantasy novels, and participating in extracurricular clubs. In her previous school, she wished she had more time to pursue those interests and include them more centrally in her education. Reach Cyber Charter School (Reach Cyber) has given her the ability to pursue her interests while also focusing on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in online school.
“I was part of my family’s decision-making to join Reach Cyber. I started in February 2017 after going to a private, parochial school,” said Caroline. “But I wanted to stay at home more, do STEM activities, and hands-on projects. My schoolwork at Reach Cyber lets me do that, and that’s one of the things I like the most. I love the idea of flexibility and being able to choose the order in which I do my lessons.
“At first, I thought that I would have to sit at home for hours and do nothing but schoolwork all day, but I soon realized that the teachers make it fun for me. My teachers care about if I know the material, and they’re not just like, ‘Get it done.’ They give fun assignments and work. I like LiveLesson® sessions because we get to go on the webcam.”
And Caroline did not have to give up friendships or connecting with other students through clubs and activities. “I like Reach Cyber because of the flexibility of the lessons and the fact that even though I am in a virtual school, I still have friends. We have a ‘secret agent chat’ group of friends who talk a lot. We all met through LiveLesson sessions or field trips. I have Connections Academy® friends in Pennsylvania, Maine, Michigan, Texas, California, and even Spain. I like all the clubs I’ve joined because they are STEM focused, and the teachers are excellent. I am in a Raspberry Pi and coding class, which helps me learn coding and computer science. I want to study computer science in college, and this will help me. I get to explore things that interest me more. Independent study is fun because I can get credit for doing fun projects that I pick.
“I take breaks to practice my musical instruments, attend lessons, and participate in performance opportunities. I can take piano lessons earlier in the day when most other kids my age are in school. I am in a marching band in my school district. I am also in my community’s junior philharmonic, and I take private piano lessons. I play piano, flute, piccolo, clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, and oboe.
“I volunteer as a deckhand on the historical schooner Lettie G. Howard and help out with our local maritime museum. I actually get to volunteer as part of the crew for “school sails,” where students from the local brick-and-mortar schools come on the ship for a field trip, and do evening and weekend sails as well. In the winter, I participate in the sail training and maintenance program. Because I’m a Connections Academy student, I can crew on sails during the school day, and I have even taken time off from school to go on longer sails on the Atlantic Ocean and through the Great Lakes.
“Reach Cyber is helping me reach my goals. I am taking steps toward a STEM career through my courses, talks with a scientist, clubs, and contests. I’m learning a lot, but it is way more fun than having to sit around in a classroom all day. Reach Cyber has been perfect for me.”
Leigh Anne Kraemer-Naser, Parent
Leigh Anne Kraemer-Naser is a Learning Coach to her two daughters, Caroline and Charlotte, who both attend Reach Cyber Charter School (Reach Cyber). Her family began looking into alternatives to traditional schooling options when bullying issues began to surface. Leigh Anne enrolled her daughters in Reach Cyber in the 2017–2018 school year and is loving the empowering flexibility that online school has provided.
“Our previous school was wonderful when we started out; however, as my daughter got older, the bullying got worse. The teachers saw Caroline’s quirkiness and her interest in fantasy novels and engineering as distractions instead of passions. She withdrew into isolation and misery. It finally became too much for our family to bear, and we began the search for other options. As an educator and school consultant throughout Pennsylvania, I knew that any school in our city either was not academically a good fit or was going to be more of the same social and emotional torment. I needed an environment where Caroline’s individual needs as a student and a person would be supported, encouraged, and celebrated. I knew that the local brick-and-mortar schools couldn’t provide both the social and academic setting to meet all of her needs.
“The Pennsylvania Department of Education site had a list of cyber schools, and I started my due diligence. When I began looking at Reach Cyber, it seemed too good to be true—a flexible approach to the school day, an award-winning curriculum, and the cherry on top was a focus on STEM. I attended the parent information sessions online and loved what I was hearing. A phone call with a Connections Academy® coordinator was enough to seal the deal. My younger daughter, thrilled at the idea of school in her pajamas, joined in her sister’s excitement.
“For everyone who asks, ‘What about social skills?’ I can tell you that there is socialization going on. I’m pretty sure every sixth grade student knows our guinea pig, Patronus, just as well as my daughter Caroline does. Our teachers know the children’s interests, and instead of telling them to put down the fantasy novels, they encourage them! We’ve gone to STEM day camps, and it was fun to meet the teachers in ‘real life.’”
And Leigh Anne gives high marks to the teachers at Reach Cyber. “I never thought I’d encounter so many professionals who truly are able to see where each child is and raise them to new heights. The STEM team at Reach Cyber and the Talent Networks/ Leadership team at Connections Academy have given my child her confidence back and let her believe that she is in control of what she learns, what she does, and how she succeeds. Caroline loves STEM, and she has built robots, websites, apps, and microcomputers with the support of teachers who have let her design her own learning path.
“I cannot say how much we love this school. The flexibility in scheduling has allowed our children to join my husband and me on business trips, but the structure of Connexus® and the planner keeps our learning on track. It’s a perfect balance that allows our family more time together. This is the way education should be: learning is relevant, focused, and outcome driven, with the support of caring teachers who celebrate my children’s passions and uniqueness. Our family is closer than ever, and my children are excited to be empowered in their education.”
Download and personalize our digital postcard to express your thanks to the educator who’s inspired your love of learning. Taking the time to write a note about how they’ve helped you grow or see things differently can go a long way in making them feel appreciated.
Instructions: Step 1: Click to download the postcard Step 2: Upon opening the file, type your message in the editable fields on the back of the card Step 3: Export as a PDF under the name of your choice Step 4: Open the newly saved file to ensure your text has been embedded into the document Step 5: Attach to an email and share with your teacher
Why is effective practice an important part of the online learning process?
In this module, teachers explore a variety of strategies to implement meaningful and effective practice that provides students with opportunities to learn through reteaching, and opportunities to demonstrate learning without negative consequences.
Barr, Corbett. “Deliberate Practice: What It Is and Why You Need It.” Expert Enough. Expert Enough, n.d.
Block, Joshua. “Designing Learning That Matters.” Edutopia. George Lucas Educational Foundation, 20 Oct. 2015.
Block, Joshua. “Embracing Messy Learning.” Edutopia. George Lucas Educational Foundation, 07 Jan. 2014.
Everding, Gerry. “Students Learn More If They’ll Need to Teach Others.” Futurity. Washington University in St. Louis, 12 Aug. 2014.
Lenz, Bob. “Failure Is Essential to Learning.” Edutopia. George Lucas Educational Foundation, 08 Apr. 2015.
Marzano, Robert J. “Art and Science of Teaching / Reviving Reteaching.” Educational Leadership: Interventions That Work: Reviving Reteaching. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Oct. 2010.
Thomas, Alice. “Understanding The Learning Process To Effectively Differentiate Instruction. “Center for Development and Learning. N.p., 26 Oct. 2010.
In The Road to Dual Enrollment (Part I), I discussed a few of the challenges experienced by dual enrollment programs, including lengthy accreditation processes and access to professional development opportunities. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the obstacles instructors face after they become accredited, including standardization, access, and the affordability of materials. See how online learning resources can help tackle these problems.
Developing a collegiate-level course with minimal resources
After receiving my accreditation and transitioning from high school teacher to dual enrollment instructor for Lee College in Baytown, Texas, I was given a college textbook and a sample syllabus from my department mentor. Within around two weeks I was expected to develop the learning objectives, scope, depth, breadth, and rigor for an entire course, Biology I for Science Majors. The curriculum of this course needed to match the scope and rigor of a collegiate curriculum.
I spent days reading through an entire textbook that I hadn’t previously used in my Advanced Placement® courses and brainstorming appropriate labs for the equipment that I had. I didn’t have a single test, assignment, or lab manual to follow. While my mentor gave me some of his most successful labs, I needed to make sure they didn’t use materials my school didn’t have in stock or couldn’t afford. The scope of the task seemed almost insurmountable.
The impact of online resources
Finally, after making little progress, I reached out to the department chair and department secretary to see what online resources were available. I was provided with an educator account for the associated digital learning platform for my text and was overwhelmed with the quality and quantity of material available to me.
Digital access to platforms such as MyLab™ and Mastering™ are imperative to dual enrollment teachers who are often starting from scratch. The pre-built assignments, test banks, online laboratory simulations, and study modules would have taken years of collaboration and effort to develop. Delivering course materials with such a platform provides instantaneous access to collegiate-level resources.
They also let instructors create coordinator courses. In these instances, college professors can actually create and maintain a set of nested courses for dual enrollment classes at various high schools — pushing the same assignments, tests, and content from the college to the high schools.
Digital learning platforms address affordability
30% of respondents to our surveys at the national and regional NACEP conferences indicated that funding and affordability of materials is one of their greatest program pain points. An additional benefit to using online learning platforms is the affordability for the high school partners.
During my first years as an instructor for Lee College, I would drive 50 minutes each way after school to run student samples on equipment such as PCR machines or high-speed centrifuges because my high school couldn’t afford the $10,000 investment for this equipment. But if a high school has access to the laboratory simulations found in Mastering Biology, they can provide engaging, application-based experiences that can replace thousands of dollars of equipment.
Online learning platforms also provide additional affordability through eTexts. These platforms often contain eTexts so students can avoid the separate cost of purchasing a print textbook.
We’ll continue to explore additional challenges faced by dual enrollment programs in subsequent blogs. Read part I of this blog series and stay tuned for future posts centered around high school student readiness and preparation tools for college courses.
How can teachers engage students in online learning?
In this module, teachers explore a variety of strategies to motivate and engage students in their learning. Activities include tips for fostering academic ownership, providing relevant and meaningful feedback, and other student engagement strategies, such as:
Alternative ending: Create alternate endings to literature using digital storytelling software or website tools. Share endings by sending participants to the website.
Come in character: Turn on your Webcam and talk to your students as a character. Make it humorous with a funny pair of glasses, hat, or an accent. Make it related to your content area by dressing as a particular character or historical figure.
Picture of the day: Prior to the session, students can submit a favorite photo or drawing. Choose one to share at the beginning of the session.
I’ve been working remotely for almost six years, so I have some sense of what it generally takes to be successful working from home. But then the social distancing orders went into place in March. Now, I’ve gone from focusing on work, alone, in my home office, to sharing my workspace with my wife (who has started working from home too), while we provide around-the-clock primary care for our two young children. Working from home has become less about working and more about home.
Recent surveys from Pearson indicate that others are experiencing challenges as well. In March, 81% of Americans agreed that remote work is just as good as office work, but that number is down 16 percentage points in the April survey. Satisfaction levels have also gone down as the pandemic stretches on: in March 93% reported being satisfied with their work from home experience, but that dropped to 82% reporting satisfaction in April.
In my state the shelter-in-place restrictions aren’t likely to be lifted any time soon. Since I’m a researcher, I’ve turned to the body of evidence for motivation and self-management for advice on how to get through this.
Here are five tips for how to stay motivated when working remotely based on that research and my own experiences.
1. Update your mindset
Many of us are trying to juggle two full-time jobs at the same time: caring for and being a teacher to our children while also doing the job that pays the bills. But you can not physically do both at the same time. Repeat that to yourself if you need to (I know I have!).
As such, I’ve had to reset my expectations so I’m not setting myself up for failure. My recommendation is that you try to be realistic in order to keep from getting demoralized. These are difficult times and you can not be as productive as before.
2. Set realistic goals
Now that you’ve updated your mindset, write down what is most important for you at home and for work. This will help you not only prioritize your work when time is limited, but also enable you to be satisfied that you’re still focusing on what matters. Then celebrate the small wins to help you stay motivated.
For example, I’ve become less worried about how much time my kids are spending with the tablet, and been explicit to myself that my goal is for my children to be healthy, safe, and as happy as they can be right now. And, I’ve talked with my boss to prioritize projects and push out some deadlines.
3. Create a new routine
Working from home gives you more flexibility than ever before. However, this freedom can be a double-edged sword. Work can bleed into family time and vice versa.
To counteract this, I’ve established some habits to help me transition from “morning with the kids” to “working day.” In particular, I’ll go and get changed, make myself a cup of coffee, bring it to my desk, and start on whatever task I told myself I’d pick up first thing the next day. In addition, my wife and I split up days so we can each make sure to carve out enough time to get our jobs done.
I recommend keeping to a healthy routine, blocking off working hours (as much as you can), and maintaining a dedicated “work zone” in your home, even if it is temporary, to stay focused.
4. Help yourself stay on track
To make the most of the time you have, it can help to get specific about how you will deal with obstacles in your way. Spend some time thinking about things that might make it difficult to stick to your goals, and then come up with some concrete plans for how you will deal with those (e.g., “If I see a notification news story about COVID-19 that I want to read, instead I will turn off notifications for the next hour and go back to working.”)
Planning these “if → then” kinds of rules ahead of time has been found to be really effective for helping people stick to their goals.
5. Stay connected
Working from home can often feel isolating and motivation can easily wane, so efforts to feel like part of a community at work can help. Turn your camera on during meetings. And, make an effort to recreate that watercooler talk via chat or by scheduling catch ups with your colleagues. Everyone who I’ve talked with has been in a similar challenging situation and it has made me feel better that I’m not alone.
I also really look forward to virtual calls with family and friends. Knowing that I have a happy hour with my favorite people coming up has made getting through the day a little less painful.
In the same surveys I mentioned earlier, in April, 65% of Americans say they intend to continue to work remotely after the pandemic subsides. If you do continue to work from home, I can tell you it will get easier when life returns to normal!
What role does building a community of learners play in the learning process?
In this module, teachers explore how to create a welcoming online learning environment that fosters personalized learning and communication to create a sense of community.
Activities include how teachers can develop teacher-student and student-student relationships, along with strategies for building connections both synchronously and asynchronously within an online learning environment.
Bibliography “Culture of Learning.” Learning and the Adolescent Mind. The Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas as Austin and Agile Mind, Inc.
Garrett, Amy, Aimee Whiteside, and Somer Lewis. “Get Present: Build Community and Connectedness Online.” Learning & Leading with Technology 40.2 (2012): 22-25.
Martin, Florence, and Michele A. Parker. “Use on Synchronous Virtual Classrooms: Why, Who, and How?” MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 10.2 (2014): 192-210.
Premuzic, Tomas. “What Your Email Style Reveals About Your Personality.” Fast Company. Fast Company, 06 June 2014.
Debbie Goldammer remembers spending a lot of time in the hallway as a fourth-grade student.
“Every day, my teacher would tell us to copy our spelling or math from the board at the front of the room and every day I asked where it was and got sent to sit in the hall,” she recalls.
Debbie couldn’t see the board well enough to read the writing.
“For me, as a young kid, being sent to the hall made me feel like I was bad. I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong.”
Eventually, Debbie’s father noticed her poor eyesight and she got her first pair of glasses. After that, her trips to the hallway stopped.
“My teacher never took the time to see that I couldn’t see,” Debbie says.
That experience as a young child inspired Debbie to become a teacher herself.
“I became a teacher because I wanted to watch for those things,” she says. “If kids couldn’t see or couldn’t hear, I wanted to watch for that and help them.”
Debbie spent the last 40 years doing just that; she recently retired from a career teaching.
Despite getting glasses and making the decision to become a teacher, Debbie didn’t always excel at school.
“I never really tried and focused in school,” Debbie says. “It was mainly my mom going ‘get your homework done, get your homework done.’”
It wasn’t until Debbie’s seventh-grade math teacher held her to a higher standard that she realized she could do more. When she moved into eighth grade without being placed in the advanced class, the teacher demanded a reason.
“She said, ‘you were my top student last year, you…belong in the top class,’” Debbie says.
Debbie moved to the advanced math class and experienced her second learning epiphany.
“That’s when education became important to me,” she says. “I saw it could get me someplace if I worked.”
The right emphasis
Debbie always planned to teach fourth grade—the same grade she spent so much time in the hallway—and chose elementary education for her college major.
One trip to her academic advisor’s office changed those plans—she was only a few credits from earning a minor in math.
She spent her early years teaching math to sixth-eighth graders before moving back to her hometown to teach eighth-grade math in the same classroom for the next 32 years.
“I really liked junior high kids,” she says. “They’re their own little beast—they still respect you but want to try you…there’s a lot of change happening in a short time.”
Spending the majority of her career teaching in the community where she grew up was special, Debbie says, particularly when it came to teaching the children of former students.
“I have 100 percent of the support [of my former students],” she says. “Former students who are now parents know what I will do for my students.”
Including adding a new class to her teaching schedule.
Not long before her retirement, Debbie took over teaching a dual-credit college algebra class, allowing students to earn college math credit while in high school.
“My principal asked me three times to teach the class and I said no three times,” Debbie recalls, saying she didn’t feel qualified even though she was certified.
“The fourth time, he said, ‘You’re the only one certified to do this, this is for the kids,’ and I couldn’t say no to that.”
Debbie says she can’t count the hours she spent preparing and studying so she would be ready to teach the class. She even turned to YouTube for refreshers.
“I wanted to make sure I could teach the kids as best as possible,” she says.
Debbie spent the first few weeks of her retirement cleaning out her classroom, getting it ready for its next occupant. But not everything had to change: a Goldammer will still be teaching eighth-grade math at Butler High School. Her daughter, Heather, will be moving down the hall to take over her mother’s classroom and schedule.
“I spent the first few years of my career determined not to be just like my mom,” Heather says. “But along the way, I’ve found my own path and now I feel like I’m stepping into her shoes without mimicking her.”
For her mother, Heather’s choice to follow a similar path is a point of pride.
“Heather could have gone into anything she chose,” she says, “but she chose education.”
Online teaching has gone viral! COVID-19 is causing teachers, who never thought they’d teach this way, to dive right into unchartered territory. Learning how to use technology to deliver content and evaluate students’ mastery of course principles is happening–almost overnight—and often without much guidance for instructors.
Faculty are often working more hours than they can count, trying to quickly ramp up so their students have little disruption in their learning.
Creating online learning environments is daunting, even for seasoned online instructors with weeks of lead time. But now, face-to-face face teachers are under the gun to get these courses up and running pronto. Those teaching in Spring 2020 are under pressures no one ever anticipated.
Add on to that the stress of self-isolation, homeschooling children, and sharing home office spaces with partners and children. Self-care is vital for any caretaker, and right now, it’s vital for teachers too.
This article offers teachers self-care tips to destress and renew so they continue to offer their expertise and talents to their students in these unprecedented times.
Use the Pomodoro method of working. Complete 25 minutes of intense work followed by a 5 minute break. Repeat 3x if needed. Then take a 30 minute break before beginning the cycle again.
Remember, a 40-hour work week included water cooler time or meetings. Four hours of intense work per day is really an ambitious goal. Clearly, sometimes we spend more time and sometimes less, but don’t let working online dominate your entire day.
You need designated down time. Make rules for working hours that suit your most productive times and around other people and duties in your home.
Designate a workspace (even if you have to share). Straighten and clear your work area every day. Try to keep this space only for your online teaching. Leave it when you have completed your work and don’t return “just to check.”
If you have to share a desk or computer with others, create a schedule and a way to remove your tools for work. Try putting your office tools on a cutting board you can take with you when you exit or find a box for your files/papers. This way, you have a portable workstation you can remove to prevent others from disturbing.
3. Teaching support
You are not alone. There are plenty of resources for teaching online, some at no cost. Sites like Pearson’s can provide you with online teaching tips as well as faculty experts to consult about best practices for teaching online.
4. Take care of your students
By now you may realize how time consuming and emotionally draining maintaining an online presence with your students can be. Take these steps to help take care of your students, and yourself!
Remember #1 and don’t feel you must be physically present 24-hours a day because your students may email you at 2 a.m. And while you need to find ways to create a real relationship at a distance with your students, they didn’t have access to you in the classroom beyond their class times and your office hours. The same rules also apply online.
Be clear with your students when you will and will not communicate with them. Defining expectations reduces misunderstandings that can occur when asynchronous communication becomes the rule rather than the exception.
Be cognizant of this crisis and consider bending some rules in your class that made sense before but may become less relevant now. Practice flexibility.
Focus more on collaborative activities between students if possible (shared Google docs or other methods of online collaboration).
Offer students some live time virtual meetings with you.
Create short video messages to your classes showing your willingness to understand how this crisis is impacting their lives.
If you follow the Pomodoro method mentioned above, use the breaks for some type of physical exercise. Intense mental focus is relieved by short bursts of physical activity.
Try using an exercise ball to stretch out your back. Or you jump on that stationary bike or step machine.
Designate off time for physical workouts every day. Being confined in our homes doesn’t mean we can’t work out. Use YouTube for dance workouts (you can do this with anyone in your home or alone).
Take a walk (keeping safe distances). Getting outside, even if it means on the roof of your building, will do wonders for your attitude. Morning sun is particularly important, so try to get some of those early morning rays on the top of your uncovered head.
6. You are what you eat
Eat well, but not deprived. Now may not be the best time to go on that diet, but it is a time to eat well.
Comfort foods like chips and candy aren’t the best mindless munching snacks. Instead, try nuts, fruits, or crunchy veggies. Reserve your “treats” for designated times and make sure to really focus on the enjoyment of that special something (chocolate for many of us).
Eating out is not an option currently, so find ways to get fresh vegetables, fruits, and other groceries in safe ways. There are companies that will deliver fresh veggies and fruits to your door weekly, and many markets are providing curb side pickup or deliveries of preordered items.
This may be the time we all learn to create shopping lists and stick to them, making meal plans, maybe even cooking those recipes we’ve been saving and never trying.
Remember as you plan and eat well, we will all emerge from our cocoons in time; while a few pounds to shed may not be something to worry about, gaining 20 or 30 pounds will decrease your sense of well-being, creating additional stress. So, refer to #5 again!
7. Take care of your feelings
Most of us are overwhelmed by this crisis. Be gentle with yourself if you find you are less patient with others, have times when you just want to be completely alone, feel anxious, or find yourself in a cleaning or cooking frenzy. These are just signs that you need to decompress a bit.
Take up that hobby you’ve been putting off; use yoga or meditation to set the tone for the day or to decompress, or relax with a book in the evening. There are many free apps that can help you with these types of activities.
Reach out virtually to friends and family through regular video meetings. Free resources such as Zoom, Slack, Google Hangouts, or Teams in Outlook can help you connect real time with those you love.
Attend virtual concerts that many orchestras and musicians are creating to provide comfort and inspiration, watch live cameras of zoos or wildlife, or start that blog you’ve been putting off.
Externalize your feelings in healthy ways by talking with supportive people either in your home or at a distance. If these feelings result in prolonged depression, please know there are many online counseling services that provide counseling. Counselors nation-wide are mobilizing and also working from home to help decrease stress and depression.
8. Care of others
One of the greatest methods of self-care is to flip the focus of helplessness or irritation and think of ways you are already caring for others. Look for fresh ways to be supportive of friends, family members, and your community that you hadn’t considered before.
There are sites and apps that offer opportunities to volunteer virtually in a number of ways beyond just donating. Often getting out of ourselves and into the needs of others lifts our spirits, increases our self-worth, and spills over to the jobs at hand; caring for the educational and sometimes emotional needs of our students.
Know that while you may not be getting the applause and ticker tape parades you deserve, your tireless efforts to provide ongoing education are not without notice. We will come out on the other side of this, and hopefully with greater depth in our understanding of what teaching and teachers mean and can come to mean to the students today facing challenges we have never encountered.
You are the trailblazers, teaching the leaders who will face new worlds of challenges. Take care of yourselves! The world needs you!
You may have seen it splashed across your newsfeed – an X-ray of a human skull with tiny bones poking out above the neck. Bones that never used to be there.
The image came from a study published in Scientific Reports, which linked the bone deformities to excessive time spent hunched over looking at screens. Within a few days, headlines spread across the globe like missives from a dystopian future: ‘Teenagers Grow Horns From Smartphone Usage.’
Technology has changed the way we live, learn, work and communicate. It’s no surprise that a research paper suggesting it’s also reshaping our bodies went viral.
The ubiquity of smartphones has fueled the ongoing debate about the effects of screen time. Even major tech companies like Google and Apple – the very professionals who build and evangelize this technology – are rolling out new products aimed at helping people track and reduce their screen time.
A Pew Research Center study found that 95 percent of American teenagers have a smartphone or access to one, and about half are online on a near constant basis. That translates to about 6.5 hours a day consuming screen media, not including time spent using media for school or homework, according to a separate survey.
So, what do we know for sure? Though the next generation isn’t at risk of developing horns, here are a few things science has confirmed about the effects of screen time.
Screen time affects sleep quality
Smartphones are such an intimate part of our lives that we’re bringing them into bed with us. A new report from Common Sense Media found that 29 percent of teens sleep with their mobile devices in bed with them and an additional 39 percent sleep with their device within arm’s reach. Though it may seem harmless, notifications are hard to resist – nearly 40 percent of teens said they wake up to check their phones at least once during the night. Studies have shown that the light emitted from devices impacts the body’s circadian timing, making it more difficult to fall and stay asleep.
Screen time should be very limited for young children
Children are increasingly learning how to use technology before they can talk, walk or read. But research suggests that exposing young children to too much screen time during formative early years can impede their development. A recent study found that, on average, children ages two to five spend two to three hours a day in front of a screen—and that increased screen time is linked to behavioral, social and language delays. For reference, The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends one hour per day of high-quality programming alongside a parent for that age group.
Uninterrupted screen time affects vision
Ophthalmologists agree that digital eyestrain is a real problem. Kids spending too much time on screens can experience dry eye, headaches and blurry vision. These symptoms are usually temporary – and a result of not blinking enough while looking at a device. The solution? Take a break. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends taking a 20-second break for every 20 minutes of screen time.
Screen time keeps us more connected
Experts agree that one of the great benefits of our digital lives is the ability to connect with people anywhere in the world at any time. A 2018 survey of teens’ social media use found that “connecting with friends and family” was, by a long shot, the primary reason teens believe social media has had a positive effect on people their age. Teens who responded directly to the survey also emphasized how social media enables connections with new, likeminded people. As one 15-year-old girl wrote, “It has given many kids my age an outlet to express their opinions and emotions and connect with people who feel the same way.”
All screen time is not equal
It’s easy to think of screen time as all-encompassing, but the reality is much more nuanced. A University of Michigan study of children ages four to 11 found that “how children use the devices, not how much time they spend on them, is the strongest predictor of emotional or social problems connected with screen addiction.” In other words: it’s all about the content. Aimlessly scrolling through social media and watching TV are common examples of passive screen time that don’t benefit cognitive development. But active screen time that uses technology for creative, educational and engaging purposes can significantly benefit children, and should be encouraged as technology continues to play a prominent role in their lives.
Ensuring that dual enrollment courses match the rigor and quality of traditional higher education courses requires thorough teacher training and accreditation, access to collegiate curricula, affordable student materials, and student readiness programs. It can be a challenge to coordinate all of these vital elements for every dual enrollment class, especially considering the myriad of dual enrollment course models available. Courses can be taken on the college campus, on the high school campus, remotely online, and even in hybrid versions comprised of online and face-to-face instructor interaction.
Overcoming obstacles to accreditation
The extensive initial accreditation process and training is an issue that I have personally experienced as the first dual enrollment science instructor for Lee College in Baytown, Texas. Previously, I had been teaching various levels of secondary science curricula from remedial to advanced placement (AP) when I received accreditation from Lee College to teach biology and related subjects at Hargrave High School in Huffman, Texas.
To receive this accreditation, I had to provide documentation of undergraduate and graduate school transcripts, proof of completion of my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and a CV outlining my research projects and publications.
The biology department developed an internal committee to review my paper credentials before beginning a three-step interview process. I had an initial sit down interview to discuss my experience before being asked to design and teach a sample lesson at the college campus. Finally, I had to undergo a skills assessment to test my laboratory acumen.
Facing professional development challenges
While necessary to ensure instructor quality, the accreditation process often creates a bottleneck effect for dual enrollment programs. Student interest far exceeds a school’s ability to vet instructors. A focus of many dual enrollment coordinators, policy makers, and school officials is simplifying the process of identifying and accrediting qualified instructors. This resonated with the attendees of the 2019 regional and national NACEP conferences who completed the survey at our Pearson booth. In fact, 41% of respondents indicated teacher professional development and accreditation was one of their largest program pain points.
The College Board Advanced Placement program offers week-long, intensive summer institutes on college campuses nationwide where teachers receive certification to teach AP courses. Can collegiate systems work in conjunction with governing bodies such as NACEP to hold similar dual enrollment institutes?
While the process of obtaining credentials can be cumbersome, it is equally difficult to maintain a schedule of professional development opportunities for dual enrollment instructors. Hargrave High School was more than a 50 minute drive from Lee College, prohibiting me from attending most on-site training. Travel to department meetings, team meetings, and faculty-wide technology and platform training could feasibly take an entire day, when in actuality high school teachers are only granted one or two 50 minute planning periods per school day.
The need for creative solutions
The most effective dual enrollment programs will solve these problems with outside-the-box solutions. Many collegiate partners are now offering evening, weekend, and summer professional development opportunities to accommodate the traditional high school teacher’s schedule. In addition, on-demand and webinar-based professional development can help bridge the distance gap between high school and college campuses.
The University of Texas OnRamps program employs a hybrid model wherein high school dual enrollment teachers attend an intensive summer institute followed by continual web-based support from a tenured faculty member. This allows the program to be administered throughout the entire state of Texas, helping to alleviate both the accreditation and professional development distance gap. Another unique solution is the development of dual enrollment satellite campuses such as the Lee College South Liberty Education Center. This center is located an hour away from the main campus of Lee College, allowing for a different subset of area high school students to convene to take dual enrollment classes from a qualified instructor, thus also helping to alleviate the burden of teacher accreditation and training.
These issues represent a small subset of the challenges faced by dual enrollment programs. In subsequent blogs, we’ll explore additional pain points we’ve discovered, share best practices, and present ways that Pearson is here to ensure equitable access to quality dual enrollment courses. Stay tuned for future posts addressing access to collegiate curricula, affordable student materials, and student readiness programs.
As a former full-time community college math professor in the state of Florida, I had many dual-enrolled high school students in my classes over the years. For community college instructors, having dual enrollment students in the classroom doesn’t change much about how we teach or conduct class. Sure, I reminded my college-aged students to be mindful that there were minors in the room, and I frequently tweaked due dates at the beginning of the semester since many dual-enrolled students had to wait for the district to provide their course materials. But I had the luxury of teaching my courses using the same textbook regardless of whether I had dual-enrolled students on my roster or not.
Another advantage I had was that my department was an early adopter of MathXL and MyLab™ Math, so I felt comfortable not only creating courses and assignments in those programs, but also helping my students take advantage of the great features they contained. I didn’t realize how different the experience of teaching dual enrollment can be for high school teachers until 2018, when I joined Pearson on a new team whose goal was to make dual enrollment work better for all teachers.
Accessing dual enrollment materials
Most dual enrollment partnerships require that courses taught in a high school must use the same course materials as the equivalent college course. This means that high school dual enrollment teachers must not only get their hands on the textbook, but also gain access to any corequisite online component (such as MyLab or Mastering™).
Fortunately, Pearson has made these two tasks easy, thanks to an updated website designed with dual enrollment teachers in mind. On the Preview page, you will find a link to our Dual Enrollment Instructor Access Request Form, where you can request access to our digital platforms (which contain the eText) and also request a print textbook (if needed). Additionally, the Purchase page walks users through the options to purchase student materials, since dual enrollment can have various purchasing models not commonly found in higher education.
How-tos and support
Like myself, many college professors have been using MyLab and Mastering for years, but fewer high school teachers have experience with these platforms. Still, if the college is using MyLab Math in their precalculus courses, the high school teachers are typically expected to use MyLab Math in their dual enrollment precalculus courses as well. Pearson provides high school dual enrollment teachers with the resources they need to become comfortable using our digital products. Visit our Get Started page to learn how to register yourself and your students for MyLab or Mastering.
Once you are registered and are ready to learn more, the Training and Support page provides the opportunity to subscribe to our customer success journey emails that are loaded with helpful tips, or register for a webinar to take a deeper dive into using your MyLab or Mastering product. This page also explains how to get access to the Instructor Resource Center so you can download presentations, instructor manuals, test files, and more.
Lastly, this page offers assistance in case you need technical support. We have worked with our sales and technical support teams to better prepare them to tackle dual enrollment-related issues. We encourage you to bookmark our Dual Enrollment Customer Handbook, which contains much of the same information as our website, but in a handy PDF format.
Pearson is committed to providing solutions to the unique needs of dual enrollment teachers. See how we can help your program by reading through our Results and Success Stories.
Being a leader can be challenging at the best of times, but even more so in a crisis situation like the current pandemic. Transitioning Survey findings from Pearson identified that people’s satisfaction with the work from home experience has declined: Only 82% of those in the US are currently satisfied with working remotely versus 93% in early March.
But how do you lead well when you can’t physically meet with the people you are leading? Here are our tips for effective leadership in a virtual world
1. Focus on inspiration and motivation, rather than just managing or controlling
Motivating and inspiring leadership strategies are especially important when leading virtually because we lack many social cues and tools we usually use to influence others. Be more mindful and practice this.
Examples of these types of strategies include:
Displaying ethical and inspiring behavior, taking a stand, and acting with conviction.
Supporting others and attending to their individual needs.
Motivating others by projecting a positive vision.
Supporting innovation and creativity.
2. Be optimistic, but honest
In times like these, people look to their leaders for hope, while also expecting honesty and transparency. This can be a difficult balance, when you might be experiencing personal stress and worry and often have to communicate bad news.
Delivering information in a timely manner, and in a compassionate, caring, and straightforward way. Here is a checklist from the CDC on how to communicate in a crisis.
Giving others an opportunity to process the information, and a space to share their thoughts and experiences.
Finding opportunities for realistic optimism, pointing toward the future and highlighting ways that everyone can work towards it.
3. Support trust and cohesion within virtual teams
It can be challenging for virtual teams to develop trust and cohesion.
As a leader, you can:
Set norms and processes around communication.
Encourage and schedule time for personal and social conversations as well as work discussions.
Include regular opportunities for video conferencing, which allows for much richer interaction.
Be a role model for these strategies.
4. Provide frequent and explicit opportunities for coordination
Because virtual teams have fewer opportunities to spontaneously interact and coordinate work, it is particularly important to provide clear channels and expectations for communication and coordination.
Leaders play a key role in establishing these norms and expectations, such as:
Plan regular calls so that everyone in the group can share their progress.
Use instant message or chat functions to take the place of impromptu in-person meetings.
5. Take care of your own mental health
Leaders are not immune to experiencing worries, stress, anxiety, or sadness at times of uncertainty. In fact, you may experience a unique set of stressors, making it all the more important for you to take the time to take care of yourself. For strategies to do this, read our blog on wellness.
Right now many of us are juggling working in a new environment, becoming a teacher for our kids, caring for our family full time and dealing with the anxiety that comes from living in the middle of a pandemic. We’re all feeling pretty stressed. Self-care is crucial for managing these negative emotions and being resilient.
Here are six tips based on the science of learning to help you get through this:
1. Look after your physical and mental well-being
If possible, continue your current self-care practices since it is easier to stick to existing habits. However, many of us will have to alter or discover new ones.
Here are some ideas if you are stuck at home for a few weeks:
Take care of your body by eating healthy, well-balanced meals, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep.
Work up a sweat with at-home or individual exercise activities by following workout videos on YouTube, using Fitness Apps for HIIT or strength training, or by hitting the pavement for a walk or run outside.
Practice relaxation strategies such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation. If you’re new to this, here are a few options to start.
Make time for appropriate activities that bring you happiness and joy. These might include cooking, listening to music, taking a warm bath, crafting, reading, or watching TV or movies.
2. Maintain social connections
For introverts and extroverts alike, the activities that are most important for promoting our well-being are inherently social, which can make this period where we are encouraged to be physically distant from our loved ones particularly difficult. It is all the more important to maintain our social connections, using technology to help us stay psychologically close.
Use the many different modes of communication at our fingertips – voice calls, text, social media. Video especially can make us feel closer.
Since interactions will not come up as naturally during this period, be more intentional about scheduling time to speak with friends and family. They will be excited to hear from you.
These conversations will be important opportunities to relieve stress by sharing your feelings with others. In addition, try to incorporate fun, play a game virtually or watch the same movie together.
3. Create structure and a schedule
Watching the news can make us feel a lack of control, which fuels stress. Control what you can and maintain as much normalcy as possible.
Develop a schedule and try to stick to your new routine. You can start with activities that support good eating and sleep habits, and fill in with both fun and necessary activities. Scheduling in regular opportunities for self-care can help us stick to those plans.
For those who are transitioning into remote work, maintaining a schedule can help ensure dedicated time for work while also protecting individual relaxation and family time.
Particularly for families who have young children home from school, maintaining a schedule may seem daunting. Be kind to yourself as you work through new processes and routines. Much of the benefit of the schedule comes from thoughtfully making one, not perfectly following one.
4. Be a smart media consumer
It is important to find a balance regarding media consumption. With situations changing quickly in a crisis, it is useful to follow the news in order to keep up-to-date. On the other hand, repeatedly viewing (often negative) news stories can increase stress and anxiety.
Consider taking breaks from viewing the news, or schedule specific times to check the news. It can also be helpful to limit your media consumption to a few, trusted sites, which can help keep you from hearing the same information repeatedly.
5. Seek additional help if needed
During times such as these, it is completely normal to experience elevated levels of stress along with other negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety, anger, and frustration. If these persist or worsen and begin to cause significant distress or dysfunction, seek additional help.
More specific warning signs include:
Persistent anxiety, worry, insomnia, or irritability.
Withdrawing from appropriate social contact.
Persistently checking for symptoms or seeking reassurance about one’s health.
Abusing alcohol or drugs.
Experience of suicidal thoughts or actions.
Many therapists are transitioning to providing telemedicine so you get professional support without needing to meet in person. Find a therapist from a site like Psychology Today. Those with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with treatment.
6. Practice empathy
We are in many ways overwhelmed with information and recommendations and it can be easy to fall into the trap of judging others for their choices. But many are having to weigh financial concerns with public health and personal safety, and making difficult decisions.
Hanging on to judgment and anger at others can be counter productive. It can cause our personal stress levels to elevate and can break down the social bonds that are so important to weathering crises. Try to practice empathy by considering the perspectives of others. Understanding why someone has made a different decision from you can help you be more compassionate. Loving-Kindness Meditation can also support compassion and empathy. This type of meditation involves mentally sending kindness and goodwill to others. Read more here.
But also, don’t let trying to practice self-care stress you out. Do the best you can and be kind to yourself and others.
As the Coronavirus continues to spread, organizations like the World Health Organization and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending strategies to reduce the spread in communities. A big part of keeping people healthy involves minimizing contact at work and during the commute.
But for many people, teleworking is new and it can be a real challenge, especially if multiple members of the same family-parents and kids-are all trying to work and study together under the same roof.
Nearly one-fifth of Pearson’s employees around the globe work from home full time and thousands more split their time between their home and an office. It’s been part of our company’s culture for years. But, not everyone is a regular in their own home office. If working from home is new to you, we’ve compiled the best tips from our own teleworking employees to help you get through this uncertain time.
Maximize the technology your company has to offer
Confirm the tools available to you while working remotely. That may mean practicing with new technology. It may also mean remembering to take home simple items from your desk or asking your employer for what you think you might need.
Things like a monitor can ease eye strain and a separate keyboard or mouse can be more comfortable while typing. Grab a headset or earbuds from the office so calls and video conferences are easier. You probably can’t take the desk chair from your office, but you are going to need to carve out some kind of dedicated space. Think about how you would manage space if multiple people in your house need to work and study together.
Set expectations now with your boss and colleagues about communication
Agree where, when, and how to best communicate with your team to create awareness and enable efficiencies. Be deliberate about scheduling meeting times and quick check-ins. Will you huddle for 15 minutes virtually first thing in the morning or have a quick wrap up in the evening?
Consider less email and more talking, especially via video conferencing. This can be an uncertain time, so it’s going to be reassuring to hear and see colleagues. Leave your video camera on during meetings – facial expressions and personal connection mean a lot right now.
Create opportunities to talk beyond work discussions
Plan virtual coffee breaks or consider extending virtual meetings to account for all of the chit-chat that you miss by not being in the office. Having extra time in a meeting makes a difference in the quality and depth of a work discussion.
But it also allows you to understand your colleagues better and what they are going through right now. You can ask about people’s work experiences, families or even the photos you now see on their walls. You can introduce your dog, share funny memes or just talk about how everyone is coping with the current situation. Mostly just be human.
Set working hours and keep to them, scheduling time for work, meals, and when to disconnect
Unplugging is just harder when your work from home. Work can bleed into every part of your day if you let it. Set consistent hours and clearly socialize your schedule with colleagues. Get up, get out of your PJs and get dressed in the morning. Follow your regular morning routine as much as you can and let colleagues know when you expect to login and start your working day.
You may not be commuting, but if you have kids out of school you may need to set aside time in the morning to help them login and get started with their online lessons. You may need to stop during the day and care for a child or sick relative.
Communicate those needs to your team. During the day, block out time for work, but also reclaim your lunch and get away from your desk. Take short breaks and don’t let working from home merge into your evening or family time.
Give your colleagues a virtual pat on the back!
Now is the time when people need that inspiration and encouragement. So build up colleagues when you can, even if it’s an email shout-out to their boss, a thank you for going the extra mile or a “You got this!”.
Career and Technical Education (CTE) is emerging as a platform for educational innovation in schools. CTE and academic courses are now part and parcel in preparing students for the rigors of learning, living, working, and playing in the 21st century.
On June 17, 2019, Pearson CTE Specialists Deborah Noakes and Jim Brazell presented a workshop titled Certified Futures at Certiport’s 2019 Certified Conference. Certiport,® a Pearson business, is dedicated to helping learners excel and succeed through certification.
At Certified, teachers were asked to write haiku poems where the first stanza reflects the state of learning, the second line illustrates a key change, and the third line exhibits the final state of learning after the change. A haiku is a poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five. Below are select Haiku from students and teachers:
My mom made me come My teacher cares about me Now I want to go
My phone is my life I learned how to innovate Tech is my life line
I’m not an artist Teacher, teach me Photoshop I am an artist now
Code on screens Inanimate life takes shape Building the future
Technologies Here, there, and everywhere Everyone needs to certify
The test is a bore Entertainment we implore Too stressed for high stakes tests
Certification Empowering students Embrace the future
Apathy vs Enthusiasm Daily grind of change Students seek relevance Teaching relevance is key Real world experiences Certify them all
The world is ready Education is behind Time to shift the mind
Students bored in class Active engaging lessons Transform the classroom
Graduation sparks Those that certify before They face the future
These haiku exemplify the key shift in 21st century learning: The shift from axiomatic (self-evident truth) to inductive (using observation and experience to move from specific to broader conclusions) presentation of curriculum. This strategy worked in the 1960’s as a platform for the United States to reform teaching physics as a national priority motivated by the Space Race.
The shift in pedagogy engender improvements to education by modeling the way experts work and think affording students the opportunity to approach the content knowledge in the same way that experts approach problems in the field. Today, we call this inquiry-driven, project-based learning and for many states and schools the method of assessment is industry certification. CTE is answering this call for innovation. Learn more about Pearson CTE programs.
In education today, many states are testing high school (HS) students in their junior year to determine if they are college ready. This enables students who test college ready excellent opportunities to earn college credit while taking dual credit courses. Many of these students graduate from high school with college credit, Associate Degrees, and no student loan debt.
Since this is such a successful model, HS educators are now focusing on providing more opportunities for HS students not testing college ready by offering Transition or College and Career Readiness (CCR) courses. These opportunities are bridging the gap for college and career readiness.
Providing students college readiness resources while still in high school is a benefit to students. In the past, most colleges enrolled these students in Developmental Courses to enable them to become college ready. Students did not earn college credit for these courses but did pay tuition. Providing these resources in high school eliminates cost, saves time, and reinforces skills. In addition, college and career ready students encounter more opportunities for higher education and employment choices.
Implementing these courses varies from state to state. Many states now mandate high schools provide these transition classes before graduation. Student progress and the number of students graduating college and career ready are monitored by the state. Some school systems include these classes in the student’s schedule, offer courses as supplemental instruction or boot camps, or even an independent study for students.
Increasing the high school college and career readiness rate continues to be one of the strongest outcomes. In Kentucky, for example, after 5 years of implementing the high school transition classes, the college and career readiness graduation rate doubled. As a result, students, colleges, and employers benefited from graduating seniors being better prepared. (Source: Kentucky Department of Education)
Bridging the gap for college and career readiness by providing resources, educational, and employment opportunities during high school benefits students and communities. As an educator, I am proud to be part of so many initiatives that empower students to be successful in life.
Those of us parenting in a digital world, frankly, don’t know what we’re doing. Warnings about the negative impact of screen time and social media abound. We are told that the internet is a breeding ground for cyberbullies and predators, a facilitator of social isolation and mental health challenges, and a mad scientist that is rewiring our kids’ brains so they can’t concentrate while also exposing them to an unmitigated cesspit of bad language and porn. These threats — combined with the lack of response from the big players in the tech field — have left parents floundering in a stormy, unregulated digital ocean.
For now, the best way for parents to mitigate the hazards of the digital world is for them to be as digitally savvy as their children.The following are a few tips that might help them do just that.
1. Walk your talk
It is vital that parents model the behaviour they expect from their kids when it comes to the use of devices and social media. A family mission statement on how, when and where smartphones are used can be helpful if it’s something everyone buys into. Experts suggest that parents are best placed as mentors rather than micromanagers when it comes to the use of technology, with the idea that conversation is more powerful than coercion. You might decide, for example, to keep mealtimes tech-free, but it won’t work if parents have iWatches pinging messages to them over pizza. Thinking about your relationship with digital tech, and discussing it as a family is a great place to start.
2. Sleep is sacred
Most experts agree that parents should be aware of the effect technology is having on children’s sleep. Having clear boundaries around the use of smartphones at night and around bedtime routines is important. Left to their own devices (pun intended), many kids will text and receive messages when they should be winding down.
3. Deal or no deal
I can honestly say that screen time is the only thing we fight with my 12-year-old daughter about, and while negotiation is always our first step, we have set non-negotiables around her device use because, well, we pay the bill. We have access to all of our daughter’s passwords, social media and chat accounts, not so that we can spy on her, but so she knows that we can, at any time, see what she is saying and doing online. We’ve tried a number of parental control tools along the way too, and you might find them useful: OurPact, Circle Home, and Forest.
4. Know your Finsta from your Rinsta
Parents need to understand that the way they engage online is not how their kids engage online. Sitting down with my daughter and going through her apps opened my eyes to how she uses Instagram’s chat function more than its image sharing features. I was exposed to Snapchat streaks, Finsta (“fake” Instagram) and Rinsta (“real” Instagram) accounts, and a host of terrifying anonymous apps that went instantly into the NO DEAL pile and were deleted. Any app that enables anonymous posting is an absolute NO in our house. We went through each app’s geolocation features, switching off where appropriate, and talked through the data that was being collected. I find having this check-in regularly and getting my daughter to talk me through the what and the why makes me feel more comfortable and keeps the conversation open.
I’ve also found it helpful to understand my daughter’s school’s policy on social media — teachers and educators often have real insight into the latest social media trends, and can be great allies in tackling problems.
5. Fill their world with alternatives and dial up the good
Where possible, we try to fill our daughter’s life with books, music, outdoor activities and shared experiences offline, but we also embrace the opportunity to teach her to be a responsible digital citizen by sharing screen time, talking about images, encouraging critical thinking and understanding, and discussing the power of advertising, influencers and data. We feel our task is not so much to protect her from the online world, but to encourage her autonomy, her ability to make good decisions, and to equip her with the information she needs.
While the secret life of our children has never felt more dangerous, I also realise that teenagers today have the same angst, insecurities, challenges and need for guidance as other generations of teens. The difference now is that everything is chronicled publicly and the pace of change means that parents need to constantly upgrade their knowledge. It’s a parenting task pre-digital adults did not sign up for, but we’re in it. For every hour spent on an app, there is always a walk in the park to be taken; for every Kardashian, we can show them a Malala.
This November, Iowa Tech Chicks, an educational nonprofit in Iowa City, held its sixth Girls Tech Career Day. This technology-centric event offers approximately forty school girls (grades 5-8) the opportunity to learn about STEM careers through presentations from women in the field and hands-on activities.
Girls Tech Career Day Co-Chair Michelle Knedler has participated in planning and running the event since 2016. She started volunteering with Iowa Tech Chicks and quickly got involved with the organization’s annual career day, coming up with activities, organizing volunteers, and lining up partnerships and sponsors.
Below, Michelle, who is a product manager at Pearson by day, shares some words of advice for organizations that want to start holding their own tech career events.
Why girls only?
According to “Girls in IT: The Facts,” a report from the National Center for Women & Information Technology, “Each year since 1999, the AP Computer Science exam consistently has had the lowest female percentage of any of the 37 AP exams, hovering at 19% or lower,” and one of the reasons girls are reluctant to take computer science classes is that they’re uncomfortable being the only females in a classroom full of their male peers.
The disproportionately low number of women in computer science trend continues into higher education and the workplace, creating a situation where even though, “Computing jobs are among the fastest-growing and highest-paying…few women are benefiting from these occupations.”
Some girls may need a nudge to consider computer sciences, and will feel more comfortable trying it with friends, so they won’t be the only girl in the class.
The report suggests that girls-only computer science educational opportunities are one way of combating negative peer influence early by providing girls with spaces where they feel supported and able to ask questions, mess-up, and try again.
In order to gauge the success of your tech career day, you’ll need to clearly define your aspirations and expectations. Iowa Tech Chicks’s 2018 tech career day goals include the following:
Give the girls a clear understanding of computer science and computer science careers.
Challenge stereotypes about careers in technology, including that they’re tedious, not “people”/social jobs, really difficult, and not creative.
Build up participants’ resilience and their confidence in their own technological abilities and knowledge.
Computer science is the study of all of the different ways computers can be used to make things easier, faster, or more fun.
– Girls Who Code
Ask a group of middle school girls what they think of when they think of people in technology and they’re going to tell you that it’s a bunch of guys staring at a computer screen all day working on things that they don’t find interesting. To have a successful tech career day, you have to show participants that
Technology careers are creative, social/people facing, meaningful, and diverse;
Lots of roles fall under the banner of tech careers, including developers, project managers, designers, artists, business analysts, data scientists, engineers, testers, product managers, etc;
And that technology can be paired up with their personal interests.
Make it interactive
Interspersing the day with activities will keep participants engaged and will help prevent information overload. At the Iowa Tech Chicks Career Day, we strive to provide the girls with a range of experiences that reflect their interests and are relevant to their lives right now.
Keep the activity session sizes small by rotating groups.
Determine if any of the sessions can be led by girls close to participants’ age groups. For example, we’ve had high school and college girls lead the Protect the Pringle activity (see below).
Most of all, don’t be afraid to challenge participants. You may be surprised by how capable they are.
Distracted driving simulation: Volunteers from the National Advanced Driving Simulator show the girls how technology can save lives. Tech Career Day participants get to drive simulators and learn firsthand about the dangers of distracted driving.
Protect the Pringle: This problem-solving activity asks the girls to create packaging for a single Pringle potato chip from simple, everyday materials. Their contraptions must protect the Pringle from damage during three secret tests: a fall, heavy weight, and submersion. The girls are given a chance to try again once they know the challenges their chips will face.
Robotics: Girls use Lego WeDo robotic kits to build and code a robot to perform a simple task.
Development life cycle: Participants work in groups to select a problem they want to solve. They then brainstorm potential engineering solutions to their problems, create wireframes to layout functionality, and develop pitches to explain their ideas to their peers. This activity is great for demonstrating how STEM careers require creativity.
This year’s ideas included “EZVote,” an app that allows citizens to vote online using facial recognition, and an online school platform that made learning more fun.
Take advantage of the resources in your community to provide a unique experience for Career Day participants.
Partnerships: Iowa Tech Chick partnerships have led to field trips to local businesses and nonprofits (such as the Iowa City FabLab), a welding program at a local community college, a robotics workshop with a woman-owned business, and a mini med school session with students from the University of Iowa.
School districts: Coordinating efforts with your local school district can aid with Career Day preparation and execution. For example, the Iowa City Community School District has helped Iowa Tech Chicks by identifying girls to participate in Career Day and securing parent permission. This has enabled us to invite a diverse group of girls who have had limited exposure to the Career Day topics and technology. The School District has also helped us by providing free bus transportation on the day of the event.
Sponsors: Look for local business sponsors to help with the cost of the event. Iowa Tech Chick expenses were food (snacks and lunches), t-shirts, and items donated for goody bags. Additional money helped buy materials and gadgets like Spheros and Kindles.
Volunteers/Mentors:Connect with volunteers through work, professional organizations, friends, etc. Invite women who are working in technology to give presentations and lead activities. Try to show as wide a range of industries and roles as you can.
Resources: Introduce Career Day participants to resources in their school and community, so that once you pique their interest in technology they have the means to keep exploring.
Get feedback & make improvements
Get the girls feedback on the activities so you can hone in on what worked well and what can be improved upon next time. We solicit feedback through surveys that we ask the girls to fill out and through conversations between participants and volunteers.
Kate Edwards, SVP, Efficacy & Research at Pearson: “Why I chose to tell this story.”
At face value, what I’m sharing is a story about efficacy in medicine and what can be learned and applied in the field of education. It’s about the power of focusing on outcomes and what can be achieved by a diverse team applying evidence in the service of delivering those outcomes. It’s also a story that tells another tale. It’s the story of someone, me, who at the time felt they had personally and physically failed — and what they went on to do next.
With that in mind, it wasn’t an easy decision to share my story. I am not someone who lives a life of self-disclosure. In fact, however seamlessly presented this narrative appears, its sharing has been grounded in a lot of fear and self-doubt.
I was afraid. Afraid I’d jumble up events, misrepresent things or people, forget important medical things. I was afraid others would judge me, or the sharing of it, as inappropriate. Scared that it would be interpreted as giving advice when I don’t presume to have any to give. The story is my family’s experience of extreme premature birth. It is also a story that is not ‘over’ for us, we are still living with the effects of what happened.
Why did I choose to do this? Living through that experience,I learned that it’s the moments when you think everything is going wrong that a strange alchemy can take place. One that transforms the disaster into a renewed and purposeful journey. I chose to share this story not because of the experience of failure, but because of what I learned next, and what that’s helping me to go on and do.
The twists and turns that learning took me on, taught me that straight roads are conducive to a speedy arrival at your destination, but they don’t necessarily make skillful drivers.
Over the course of the 116 days we spent in hospital I learned things about myself, about others, about resilience in the face of adversity, and about what you are capable of doing in the service of the things you care most about.
After we left the hospital and returned home, a very wise man (Pearson’s CEO, John Fallon) who was reflecting on his own personal challenges said,“I’ve learnt that it is not what happens to you in life, ultimately, that matters, but what you do about it.” John’s words have stuck with me. Over time, and with the support of other colleagues at Pearson like Tim Bozik, Kate James and my team, the words gave me the courage to build on what I learned. I have come to understand what it means to show-up as myself, not just in private, but at work, and as a leader. Ultimately, to paraphrase researcher Brené Brown, I learned that the courage to be vulnerable can help you transform how you live, love, parent, and lead.
On the 16th of November, it will be two years since my daughter’s scheduled delivery date. November 17th is World Prematurity Day. To personally mark these poignant milestones I agreed to write about my experience. I wanted one or two of the parents of the 15 million babies born prematurely each year to know that they are not alone. I also want to remind you that we all have these stories that go into the making of who we are and how we show up. It’s by feeling the fear, choosing courage over comfort, daring to be brave, sharing and listening to stories of persistence, and using what we’ve learned to make a difference (however big or small) that change can come: in our personal relationships, our families, our workplaces, our communities.
Technology is driving the sports industry, making it easier to gather player insights. Can it do the same for student performance?
The sports industry has changed drastically in recent years with the implementation of technologies that improve player and team performance. NFL teams now use digital playbooks to enhance training and communication, the NHL is planning to introduce smart puck technology in 2019 to track movement on the ice, and most recently at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, all 32 teams used Electronic Performance and Tracking Systems (EPTS), technologies that give coaches, analysts, and medical teams access to player statistics and video footage, such as player positioning data, speed, passing, and tackles. With high stakes competition in every game, coaches can rely on EPTS to help them make informed decisions. And sports coaches aren’t the only ones using technology to gain insights and drive results. Just ask a teacher.
Teachers and coaches embrace technology
According to a 2016 survey by Edgenuity, provider of online and blended learning services, 91% of teachers believe technology provides a greater ability for them to tailor lessons and homework assignments to the individual needs of each student.
By implementing technology in the classroom and learning how to use new apps and platforms, teachers are able to stay on top of learner progress and provide immediate feedback that will improve performance. Teachers, like sports coaches, have to learn about the latest technologies so they’re able to build the skills and the talents of others.
Technology affects everyone
In 2016, FIFA invited the soccer industry to Zurich to learn more about new technologies like EPTS that would impact the game. Johannes Holzmueller, FIFA Head of Football Technology, believes the advantage of wearable technology is the amount of data people can access. His colleague Marco van Basten, FIFA’s Chief Technical Development Officer, notes that data informs players on their performance, it gives doctors insight into player health and wellbeing, and trainers can use it to recommend player substitutes.
With innovative technology, a community of people interested in the soccer player’s abilities can work together. The collaboration and involvement look similar to the way teachers, parents, and administrators work together to do what’s best for the student. Cutting-edge technology affects an individual’s entire ecosystem.
Keller Battey, a first grade teacher in Atlanta, Georgia, relies heavily on technology to help her track progress and personalize teaching. “Technology helps all students,” Battey says. “If a student is above grade level, I can extend a skill or a lesson and if a student is struggling then I can remediate. I know exactly how my students are performing and so do their parents. The data is all there.”
Education companies, large and small, are listening to consumers and have focused on the benefits of providing data and analytics to help teachers and students achieve success. Pearson’s Intelligent Essay Assessor (IEA) is a prime example of a capability that meets the needs of teachers and students.
IEA is a suite of automated essay scoring capabilities that can analyze open-ended responses from learners and then assesses the content knowledge and understanding. It uses a range of machine learning and natural language processing technologies to evaluate the content and meaning of text and feedback is immediate, allowing teachers to monitor ongoing progress at an individual and class level.
The goal of technology here is to ensure correct evaluation and accuracy. In this year’s World Cup, the new Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology performed in a similar capacity.
Technology as a supplement
VAR was created to ensure fairness and identify any errors on the field. Video Assistant Referees work in a team of four, and each referee undergoes extensive training to support match officials in the decision making process.
FIFA referee Mark Geiger has been a VAR since the project started in 2016 at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan. He says, “When you have a critical decision in a game…they’re there to tell you ‘check complete.’ It’s the two best words for a referee to hear because now you know your decision was correct, and you’re able to go on with a lot of confidence.”
VAR technology proved to be a controversial topic at the World Cup, and though it may undergo improvements, the technology is here to stay. At the closing news conference in Moscow, FIFA president Gianni Infantino touched on the technology at the games. “This is progress, this is better than the past,” he said. “VAR is not changing football, it is cleaning football.”
A similar sentiment is expressed by education leaders who assure consumers and educators that technology doesn’t exist to replace teachers; it exists to support them. Tim Hudson, SVP of Learning at DreamBox, told Business Insider, “It’s important that we listen to teachers and administrators to determine the ways technology can assist them in the classroom.”
A new report responds toThe Future of Skillsby exploring its implications for education systems and offers up practical solutions for higher education to more closely align with what the workforce needs.
We are excited to share a new report by Jobs for the Future (JFF) and Pearson that explores the changing world of work and provides recommendations for shifting from the traditional route to employment to a network of pathways that is flexible, dynamic, and ultimately serves more learners.
The first wave – access – was focused on getting more people to enter higher education. The second wave was focused on improving achievement – getting more students to earn degrees and certificates.
In this third wave, the worlds of education and work will converge producing programs that ensure students are job-ready and primed for lifelong career success.
Adapting to the needs of both the learner and the employer, “demand-driven education takes account of the emerging global economy — technology-infused, gig-oriented, industry-driven — while also striving to ensure that new graduates and lifelong learners alike have the skills required to flourish.”
The report states, “as the future of work unfolds, what makes us human is what will make us employable.”
While technological literacy is critical, learners need educational experiences that cultivate skills, including fluency of ideas, originality, judgment, decision-making, and active learning, all supported by collaborative academic and career paths.
In a recent interview, Joe Deegan, co-author of the report and senior program manager at JFF, said,“although technology such as digital assessment might enable educators to make programs faster and more adaptive, the most significant change is one of mindset.”
The future is bright. And there’s a lot of good work to do through active collaboration and partnership to create rewarding postsecondary learning experiences that are responsive to our changing world and inclusive of all learners.
Pearson study reveals Generation Z and millennials’ learning preferences
Young people are the first to admit they can easily spend hours a day on the internet—whether it’s via a desktop computer, tablet, or smartphone. While they may be tech-savvy by nature, this innate connectivity poses the question of technology’s place as it relates to how Generation Z and millennials learn.
In a recent survey of 2,558 14-40 year olds in the US, Pearson explored attitudes, preferences, and behaviors around technology in education, identifying some key similarities and differences between Gen Z and millennials.
While 39% of Gen Z prefer learning with a teacher leading the instruction, YouTube is also their #1 preferred learning method. And 47% of them spend three hours or more a day on the video platform. On the other hand, millennials need more flexibility—they are more likely to prefer self-directed learning supported by online courses with video lectures. And while they are known for being the “plugged in” generation, it’s apparent that plenty of millennials still prefer a good old-fashioned book to learn.
Regardless of their differences, the vast majority of both Gen Z and millennials are positive about the future of technology in education. 59% of Gen Z and 66% of millennials believe technology can transform the way college students learn in the future.
This series, produced with The Edtech Podcast, explores the implications of and questions around future tech for education. Listen for insights from experts — including contrarians — from across industry, research, and academia. Get caught up with episodes 1-7.
What initiatives are supporting teachers and students to co-create games together? In this episode of our Future Tech for Education podcast series, hear from educators, gaming companies, and researchers on the evolution of games-based learning from “content” to “creation”.
Subscribe to the Future Tech for Education on iTunes.
This series, produced with The Edtech Podcast, explores the implications of and questions around future tech for education. Listen for insights from experts — including contrarians — from across industry, research, and academia. Get caught up with episodes 1-6.
In episode 7 of our Future Tech for Education podcast series, we explore: What is personalized learning? What is it not? Is there an evidence base yet for personalized learning and what does the research evidence show us about the contexts where personalized learning works best? What is the role of student, software and teacher in a personalized learning context? What questions should we be asking?
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This is the sixth in a series of essays surrounding the EdTech Efficacy Research Symposium, a gathering of 275 researchers, teachers, entrepreneurs, professors, administrators, and philanthropists to discuss the role efficacy research should play in guiding the development and implementation of education technologies. This series was produced in partnership with Pearson, a co-sponsor of the symposium co-hosted by the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, Digital Promise, and the Jefferson Education Accelerator. Click through to read the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth pieces.
Economists define a collective action problem as one in which a collection of people (or organizations) each have an interest in seeing an action happen, but the cost of any one of them independently taking the action is so high that no action is taken — and the problem persists.
The world of education swirls with collective action problems. But when it comes to understanding the efficacy of education technology products and services, it’s a problem that costs schools and districts billions of dollars, countless hours, and (sadly) missed opportunities to improve outcomes for students.
Collectively, our nation’s K-12 schools and institutions of higher education spend more than $13 billion annually on education technology. And yet we have a dearth of data to inform our understanding of which products (or categories of products) are most likely to “work” within a particular school or classroom. As a result, we purchase products that often turn out to be a poor match for the needs of our schools or students. Badly matched and improperly implemented, too many fall short of their promise of enabling better teaching — and learning.
It’s not that the field is devoid of research. Quantifying the efficacy of ed tech is a favorite topic for a growing cadre of education researchers and academics. Most major publishers and dozens of educational technology companies conduct research in the form of case studies and, in some cases, randomized control trials that showcase the potential outcomes for their products. The What Works Clearinghouse, now entering its 15th year, sets a gold standard for educational research but provides very little context about why the same product “works” in some places but not others. And efficacy is a topic that has now come to the forefront of our policy discourse, as debates at the state and local level center on the proper interpretation of ESSA’s mercurial “evidence” requirements. Set too high a bar, and we’ll artificially contract a market laden with potential. Miss the mark, and we’ll continue to let weak outcomes serve as evidence.
The problem is that most research only addresses a tiny part of the ed tech efficacy equation. Variability among and between school cultures, priorities, preferences, professional development, and technical factors tend to affect the outcomes associated with education technology. A district leader once put it to me this way: “a bad intervention implemented well can produce far better outcomes than a good intervention implemented poorly.”
After all, a reading intervention might work well in a lab or school — but if teachers in your school aren’t involved in the decision-making or procurement process, they may very well reject the strategy (sometimes with good reason). The Rubik’s Cube of master scheduling can also create variability in efficacy outcomes: Do your teachers have time to devote to high-quality implementation and troubleshooting, and then to make good use of the data for instructional purposes? At its best, ed tech is about more than tech-driven instruction. It’s about the shift toward the use of more real-time data to inform instructional strategy. In some ways, matching an ed tech product with the unique environment and needs of a school or district is a lot like matching a diet to a person’s habits, lifestyle, and preferences: Implementation rules. Matching matters. We know what “works.” But we know far less about what works where, when, and why.
Thoughtful efforts are underway to help school and district leaders understand the variables likely to shape the impact of their ed tech investments and strategies. Organizations like LEAP Innovations are doing pioneering work to better understand and document the implementation environment, creating a platform for sharing experiences, matching schools with products, and establishing a common framework to inform practice — with or without technology. Not only are they on the front lines of addressing the ed tech implementation problem, but they are also on the leading edge of a new discipline of “implementation research.”
Implementation research is rooted in the capture of detailed descriptions of the myriad variables that undergird your school’s success — or failure — with a particular product or approach. It’s about understanding school cultures and user personas. It’s about respecting and valuing the insights and perspectives of educators. And presenting insights in ways that enable your peers to know whether they should expect similar results in their school.
Building a body of implementation research will involve hard work on an important problem. And it’s work that no one institution — or even a small group of institutions — can do alone. The good news is that solving this rather serious problem doesn’t require a grand political compromise or major new legislation. We can address it by engaging in collective action to formalize, standardize, and share information that hundreds of thousands of educators are already collecting in informal and non-standard ways.
The first step in understanding and documenting a multiplicity of variables across a range of implementation environments is creating a common language to describe our schools and classrooms in terms that are relevant to the implementation of education technology. We’ll need to identify the factors that may explain why the same ed tech product can thrive in your school but flop in my school. That doesn’t mean that every educator in the country needs to document their ed tech implementations and impact. It doesn’t require the development of a scary database of student or educator data. We can start small, honing our list of variables and learning, over time, what sorts of factors enable or impede expected outcomes.
The next step is translating those variables into metadata, and creating a common, interoperable language for incorporating the insights and experiences of individuals and organizations already doing similar work. We know that there is demand for information and insights rooted in the implementation experiences and lessons of peers. If we build an accessible and consistently organized system for understanding, collecting, and sharing information, we can chip away at the collective action problem by making it easier and less expensive to capture — and share — perspectives from across the field.
The final step is addressing accessibility to shared insights, facilitating a community of connected decision makers who work together both to call upon the system for information and to continue to make contributions to it. Think of it as a Consumer Reports for ed tech. We’ll use the data we’ve collected to hone a shared understanding of the implementation factors that matter — but we’ll also continue to rely upon lived experiences of users to inform and grow the data set. Over time, we can achieve a shared way of thinking about a complex problem that has the potential to bring decision-making out of the dark and into a well-informed, community-supported environment.
This series, produced with The Edtech Podcast, explores the implications of and questions around future tech for education. Listen for insights from experts — including contrarians — from across industry, research, and academia. Get caught up with episodes 1-5.
How do we get beyond the tick-box or bubble filling exercise of exams and tests, whilst also measuring ‘progress’? In episode 6, we review ideas around ‘invisible assessment’ and question who benefits from ‘traditional’ and re-imagined forms of assessment, including games-based assessment. Can ‘tests’ be fun and should they be? How do we measure collaboration?
Subscribe to the Future Tech for Education on iTunes.
This series, produced with The Edtech Podcast, explores the implications of and questions around future tech for education. Listen for insights from experts — including contrarians — from across industry, research, and academia. Get caught up here with episode 1, episode 2,episode 3, and episode 4.
In the latest episode of our Future Tech in Education podcast series, we dip into the world of VR and mixed reality to uncover what high-cost, high-risk learning opportunities are being made more accessible to all by this technology.
Plus, we wrap our co-curated mini series with practical suggestions for educators: be mindfully skeptical, resist fear, understand that you can start small and grow, and avoid technology for technology’s sake. This last one is harder than it sounds. Many new technologies wow us but do not have useful application to education. Learn how to make the most of technology.
Subscribe to the Future Tech for Education on iTunes.
This series, produced with The Edtech Podcast, explores the implications of and questions around future tech for education. Listen for insights from experts — including contrarians — from across industry, research, and academia. Watch episode 1, episode 2,episode 3.
Technological change is exponential, which means it will only impact our lives more and more quickly. Among the aspects of our lives undergoing change, language usage is one of the ones being altered most drastically. New technologies also create new opportunities for learning. How must we adjust and what can we take advantage of?
Subscribe to the Future Tech for Education on iTunes.
This series, produced with The Edtech Podcast, explores the implications of and questions around future tech for education. Listen for insights from experts — including contrarians — from across industry, research, and academia.
Technology is a part of almost every aspect of our lives: buildings can be 3D printed, cars can drive themselves, and algorithms can direct our education.
In the third episode of this series (catch episode 1 and episode 2), we explore how do we react to, interact with, and create with the tools of technology? It’s essential that we understand how these function and what the implications.
We also look into the changing world of work and how we can best prepare.
This series, produced with The Edtech Podcast, explores the implications of and questions around future tech for education. Listen for insights from experts — including contrarians — from across industry, research, and academia. Subscribe to the Future Tech for Education on iTunes here.
Smarter digital tools, such as artificial intelligence (AI), offer up the promise of learning that is more personalized, inclusive and flexible. Many see the benefits of AI, some are skeptical – but it’s crucial we understand what these tools can do and how they work.
In the first episode of this series, we talked about the how to navigate the challenges and opportunities tech brings to the future of education. In episode two, we explore: What is AI and what is it not? What’s the difference between narrow AI, general AI, and super-intelligence? What type of AI is used now in education? What type do people fear? What questions might teachers want to use when thinking about AI in education?
This series, produced with The Edtech Podcast, explores the implications of and questions around future tech for education. Listen for insights from experts — including contrarians — from across industry, research, and academia. Subscribe to the Future Tech for Education on iTunes.
In our first episode of the Future Tech for Education podcast series, we put “future-forecasting” in perspective through a few useful but simple models. We talk about the history of the future and mindful skepticism, and we delve into the four foci of edtech technologies — mixed reality, data science (AI), biosyncing, and human-machine relations — and their effect on education, teaching, and learning.
Employ mindful skepticism. This means not accepting a new technology as inherently good or evil. But try to understand what the possibilities are. Try to understand what can it be used for; how can I make the most of this technology.
We’ve heard from Emily Lai, Ph.D., twice before. Last year, she shared the story of her work in Jordan to improve learning opportunities for the children of Syrian refugees. More recently, she offered her tips for parents and teachers on helping students improve their information literacy.
The Components of Collaboration
“Most of us know what collaboration is, at least in its most basic sense,” says Emily Lai, Ph.D.
“It means working with others to achieve a common goal.”
Emily is Director of Formative Assessment and Feedback for Pearson. Her work is focused on improving the ways we assess learners’ knowledge and skills, and ensuring results support further learning and development.
“We’ve been reviewing the research, trying to figure out what we know about collaboration and how to support it. For example, we know that collaboration skills have an impact on how successful somebody is in all kinds of group situations—at school, on the job, and even working with others within a community to address social issues.”
Teaching Collaboration in the Classroom
Teaching collaboration skills in the classroom can be harder than expected, Emily says.
“When a teacher assigns a group project, oftentimes students will divide up the task into smaller pieces, work independently, and then just shove their parts together at the very end.”
“In that case, the teacher likely had good intentions to help develop collaboration skills in students. But it didn’t happen.”
Checking all the Boxes
“Tasks that are truly supportive of collaboration are not easy to create,” Emily says.
Digging deeper, Emily says there are three sub-components of successful collaboration:
Interpersonal communication – how you communicate verbally and non-verbally with your teammates.
Conflict resolution – your ability to acknowledge and resolve disagreements in a manner consistent with the best interest of the team.
Task management – your ability to set goals, organize tasks, track team progress against goals, and adjust the process along the way as needed.
Emily says she understands how difficult it can be for educators to check all three boxes.
Before beginning an assignment, Emily suggests teachers talk to students explicitly about collaboration: what makes a good team member versus what makes a difficult one, as well as strategies for working with others, sharing the load responsibly, and overcoming disagreements.
During group work, she says, observe students’ verbal and non-verbal behavior carefully and provide real-time feedback.
“Talk with them about how they’re making decisions as a group, sharing responsibility, and dealing with obstacles,” Emily says.
“In the classroom, it’s all about the combination of teaching collaboration skills explicitly, giving students opportunities to practice those skills, and providing feedback along the way so those skills continue to develop.”
“The research shows that students who develop strong collaboration skills get more out of those cooperative learning situations at school.”
Teaching Collaboration at Home
Emily is a mother of two daughters, 4 and 8.
At home, she says, there’s one part of collaboration that is especially valuable: conflict resolution.
“Most often, it comes in handy on movie nights.”
“The 8-year-old tends to gravitate towards movies that are a little too scary for the 4-year-old, and the 4-year-old tends to gravitate towards movies that are a little too babyish for the 8-year-old.”
“It would be easy to intervene and just pick a movie for them, but my husband and I do our best to stay out of it,” Emily says.
“We’ve established the procedure that they have to negotiate with each other and agree on a movie, and now they have a collaborative routine in place.”
“They know they get to watch a movie, and we know they’re learning along the way.”
“Taking turns in conversation is another big one for the four-year-old,” Emily says.
“She doesn’t like to yield the floor, but it’s something we’re working on.”
“I know from the research that if my daughters learn these collaboration skills, they are more likely to be successful in their future careers.”
Sharing the Latest Research
This week, Emily and two of her colleagues are releasing a research paper entitled “Skills for Today: What We Know about Teaching and Assessing Collaboration.”
The paper will be jointly released by Pearson and The Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21), a Washington, DC-based coalition that includes leaders from the business, education, and government sectors.
“We teamed up on this paper because we both believe collaboration is too important for college, career, and life to leave to chance,” Emily says.
It is the first in a four-part series on what is known about teaching and assessing “the Four Cs”: collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication.
“P21 is the perfect partner for this effort,” Emily says.
“Our partnership signifies a joint commitment to helping stakeholders—educators, parents, policy-makers, and employers—understand what skills are needed to be successful today, and how to teach them effectively at any age.”
To download the full version of “Skills for Today: What We Know about Teaching and Assessing Collaboration,” click here.
Three executive summaries of the paper are also available:
Now more than ever, faster than ever, technology is driving change. The future is an unknown, and that scares us. However, we can overcome these fears and utilize these new technologies to better equip ourselves and steer us in a positive direction.
Language evolves, and understanding these changes is crucial to learning how to communicate effectively. Like almost all change, it’s best to embrace it rather than try in vain to reject it.
For example, it appears as though I’m on the losing side in the popular definition of the term “mixed reality.” Sorry, Mr. Milgram — I’ve given in.
A technopanic is extreme fear of new technology and the changes that they may bring. Consider the Luddites, who destroyed machinery in the early 19th century. The only constant is change, so they had little success slowing down the Industrial Revolution. In recent history, think of Y2K. This was a little different because we feared that new technology had been embraced without our full understanding of the consequences. Of course, we proceeded into the new millennium without our computer systems plunging civilization back into the Dark Ages.
Last year, the BBC compiled a list of some of history’s greatest technopanics. One of my favorites was the fear that telephone lines would be used by evil spirits as a means of entry into unsuspecting humans who were just trying to walk grandma through how to use her new light bulbs.
Our current technopanic is about artificial intelligence and robotics. I am not saying this fear is unreasonable. We don’t know how this will play out, and it appears as though many jobs will no longer be necessary in the near future. However, expending too much energy on fear is not productive, and the most dire outcomes are unlikely. The Guardian produced this clever and amusing short about artificial intelligence:
Working with New Technology
Narrow artificial intelligence is now prevalent, which means programs are better than humans at performing specific tasks. Perhaps the most famous example is IBM’s Deep Blue defeating Garry Kasparov, the world champion of chess at the time — in 1997. Today, complex algorithms outperform humans at driving and analyzing lab results, among many other things.
Robots, which are stronger, larger (or smaller), and do not get bored or sick or go on strike, have been replacing humans for hundreds of years. They can fly and work through the night for days on end or longer.
Can Humans Compete?
Spending too much energy on searching for an answer to this question is a waste of time. We should not see progress as a competitor or as an enemy. These are tools we can use.
Cyborgs: For many people, this is the word that will come to mind when reading the phrase above above it. While the word makes us think think of science fiction, we have been implanting devices in our bodies for decades. But we can now control artificial limbs directly from our brains, bypassing the spinal cord.
More “extreme” cyborgs do exist, such as Neil Harbisson, who can hear colors via an antenna implanted in his skull. Transhumanists aim to overcome human limitations through science and technology.
Becoming a cyborg is not practical, desirable, or even feasible for many of you. It’s also not necessary.
Cobots: A cobot is a robot designed to work interactively with a human in a shared workspace. Lately, some people have been using the word to refer to the human who works with robots or to the unified entity itself.
I don’t think the new definition of this word is useful. When referring to a specific type of robot, it has practical use.
Centaurs: After Kasparov lost to Deep Blue, he understood the potential of humans working with machines. He created a new form of chess called “centaur chess” or “freestyle chess.” Teams can consist of all humans, all algorithms, or a combination (a centaur). The champion has almost always been a centaur. Kasparov saw the value of combining what humans do best with what machines do best.
We Should Strive to Be Chirons
In Greek mythology, centaurs tended to be unruly, amoral, and violent. When considering a blend of human abilities and machine abilities, a potential outcome is losing our sense of humanity.
Chiron was a sensitive and refined centaur in Greek mythology. He taught and nurtured youth, most notably, Achilles.
In the context of maintaining sanity through this technopanic and, more generally, coping with technological change, Chiron embodies the centaur we should aspire to.
In regard to how we should manage technology-induced fear (reaction, interaction, and creative acceptance), this would be the third stage. We all need to strive to be chirons. For our own sake, this is critical to lifelong learning. For the sake of our youth, we need to be able to demonstrate constructive and responsible use of technology.
At Educause 2017, we will explore how new technologies can impact the future of higher education and student success. Discover opportunities to engage with Pearson at the conference and drive these critical conversations.
This is the fifth in a series of essays surrounding the EdTech Efficacy Research Symposium, a gathering of 275 researchers, teachers, entrepreneurs, professors, administrators, and philanthropists to discuss the role efficacy research should play in guiding the development and implementation of education technologies. This series was produced in partnership with Pearson, a co-sponsor of the symposium co-hosted by the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, Digital Promise, and the Jefferson Education Accelerator. Click through to read the first, second, third, and fourth pieces.
Education technology plays an essential role in our schools today. Whether the technology supports instructional intervention, personalized learning, or school administration, the successful application of that technology can dramatically improve productivity and student learning.
That said, too many school leaders lack the support they need to ensure that educational technology investment and related activities, strategies, or interventions are evidence-based and effective. This gap between opportunity and capacity is undermining the ability of school leaders to move the needle on educational equity and to execute on the goals of today’s K-16 policies. The education community needs to clearly understand this gap and take some immediate steps to close it.
The time is ripe
The new federal K-12 law, the Every Students Succeeds Act, elevates the importance of evidence-based practices in school purchasing and implementation practices. The use of the state’s allocation for school support and improvement illustrates the point. Schools that receive these funds must invest only in activities, strategies, or interventions that demonstrate a statistically significant effect on improving student outcomes or other relevant outcomes.
That determination must rely on research that is well designed and well implemented, as defined in the law. And once implementation begins, the U.S. Department of Education asks schools to focus on continuous improvement by collecting information about the implementation and making necessary changes to advance the goals of equity and educational opportunity for at-risk students. The law, in short, links compliance with evidence-based procurement and implementation that is guided by continuous improvement.
New instructional models in higher education rely on evidence-based practices if they are to take root. School leaders are under intense pressure to find ways to make programs more affordable, student-centered, and valuable to a rapidly changing labor market. Competency-based education (the unbundling of certificates and degrees into discrete skills and competencies) is one of the better-known responses to the challenge, but the model will likely stay experimental until there is more evidence of success.
“We are still just beginning to understand CBE,” Southern New Hampshire University President Paul LeBlanc said. “Project-based learning, authentic learning, well-done assessment rubrics — those are all good efforts, but do we have the evidence to pass muster with a real assessment expert? Almost none of higher ed would.”
It is easy to forget that the abundance of educational technology is a relatively new thing for schools and higher ed institutions. Back in the early 2000s, the question was how to make new educational technologies viable instructional and management tools. Education data was largely just a lagging measure used for school accountability and reporting.
Today, the data can provide strong, real-time signals that advance productivity through, for example, predictive analytics, personalized learning, curriculum curating and delivery, and enabling the direct investigation into educational practices that work in specific contexts. The challenge is how to control and channel the deluge of bytes and information streaming from the estimated $25.4 billion K-16 education technology industry.
“It’s [now] too easy to go to a conference and load up at the buffet of innovations. That’s something we try hard not to do,” said Chad Ratliff, director of instructional programs for Virginia’s Albemarle County Schools. The information has to be filtered and vetted, which takes time and expertise.
Improving educational equity is the focus of ESSA, the Higher Education Act, and a key reason many school leaders chose to work in education. Moving the needle increasingly relies on evidence-based practices. As the Aspen Institute and Council of Chief State School Officers point out in a recent report, equity means — at the very least — that “every student has access to the resources and educational rigor they need at the right moment in their education despite race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, family background, or family income.”
Embedded in this is the presumption that the activities, strategies, or interventions actually work for the populations they intend to benefit.
Educators cannot afford to invest in ineffective activities. At the federal K-12 level, President Donald Trump is proposing that, next year, Congress cut spending for the Education Department and eliminate many programs, including $2.3 billion for professional development programs, $1.2 billion for after-school funds, and the new Title IV grant that explicitly supports evidence-based and effective technology practices in our schools.
Higher education is also in a tight spot. The president seeks to cut spending in half for Federal Work-Study programs, eliminate Supplemental Educational Opportunity grants, and take nearly $4 million from the Pell Grant surplus for other government spending. At the same time, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is reviewing all programs to explore which can be eliminated, reduced, consolidated, or privatized.
These proposed cuts and reductions increase the urgency for school leaders to tell better stories about the ways they use the funds to improve educational opportunities and learning outcomes. And these stories are more compelling (and protected from budget politics) when they are built upon evidence.
Too few resources
While this is a critical time for evidence-based and effective program practices, here is the rub: The education sector is just beginning to build out this body of knowledge, so school leaders are often forging ahead without the kind of guidance and research they need to succeed.
The challenges are significant and evident throughout the education technology life cycle. For example, it is clear that evidence should influence procurement standards, but that is rarely the case. The issue of “procurement standards” is linked to cost thresholds and related competitive and transparent bidding requirements. It is seldom connected with measures of prior success and research related to implementation and program efficacy. Those types of standards are foreign to most state and local educational agencies, left to “innovative” educational agencies and organizations, like Digital Promise’s League of Innovative Schools, to explore.
Once the trials of implementation begin, school leaders and their vendors typically act without clear models of success and in isolation. There just are not good data on efficacy for most products and implementation practices, which means that leaders cannot avail themselves of models of success and networks of practical experience. Some schools and institutions with the financial wherewithal, like Virginia’s Albemarle and Fairfax County Public Schools, have created their own research process to produce their own evidence.
In Albemarle, for example, learning technology staff test-bed solutions to instructional and enterprise needs. Staff spend time observing students and staff using new devices and cloud-based services. They seek feedback and performance data from both teachers and students in response to questions about the efficacy of the solution. They will begin with questions like “If a service is designed to support literacy development, what variable are we attempting to affect? What information do we need to validate significant impact?” Yet, like the “innovators” of procurement standards, these are the exceptions to the rule.
And as schools make headway and immerse themselves in new technologies and services, the bytes of data and useful information multiply, but the time and capacity necessary to make them useful remains scarce. Most schools are not like Fairfax and Albemarle counties. They do not have the staff and experts required to parse the data and uncover meaningful insights into what’s working and what’s not. That kind of work and expertise isn’t something that can be simply layered onto existing responsibilities without overloading and possibly burning out staff.
“Many schools will have clear goals, a well-defined action plan that includes professional learning opportunities, mentoring, and a monitoring timeline,” said Chrisandra Richardson, a former associate superintendent for Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. “But too few schools know how to exercise a continuous improvement mindset, how to continuously ask: ‘Are we doing what we said we would do — and how do we course-correct if we are not?’ ”
Immediate next steps
So what needs to be done? Here are five specific issues that the education community (philanthropies, universities, vendors, and agencies) should rally around.
Set common standards for procurement. If every leader must reinvent the wheel when it comes to identifying key elements of the technology evaluation rubric, we will ensure we make little progress — and do so slowly. The sector should collectively secure consensus on the baseline procurement standards for evidence-based and research practices and provide them to leaders through free or open-source evaluative rubrics or “look fors” they can easily access and employ.
Make evidence-based practice a core skill for school leadership. Every few years, leaders in the field try to pin down exactly what core competencies every school leader should possess (or endeavor to develop). If we are to achieve a field in which leaders know what evidence-based decision-making looks like, we must incorporate it into professional standards and include it among our evaluative criteria.
Find and elevate exemplars. As Charles Duhigg points out in his recent best seller Smarter Faster Better, productive and effective people do their work with clear and frequently rehearsed mental models of how something should work. Without them, decision-making can become unmoored, wasteful, and sometimes even dangerous. Our school leaders need to know what successful evidence-based practices look like. We cannot anticipate that leader or educator training will incorporate good decision-making strategies around education technologies in the immediate future, so we should find alternative ways of showcasing these models.
Define “best practice” in technology evaluation and adoption. Rather than force every school leader to develop and struggle to find funds to support their own processes, we can develop models that can alleviate the need for schools to develop and invest in their own research and evidence departments. Not all school districts enjoy resources to investigate their own tools, but different contexts demand differing considerations. Best practices help leaders navigate variation within the confines of their resources. The Ed Tech RCE Coach is one example of a set of free, open-source tools available to help schools embed best practices in their decision-making.
Promote continuous evaluation and improvement. Decisions, even the best ones, have a shelf life. They may seem appropriate until evidence proves otherwise. But without a process to gather information and assess decision-making efficacy, it’s difficult to learn from any decisions (good or bad). Together, we should promote school practices that embrace continuous research and improvement practices within and across financial and program divisions to increase the likelihood of finding and keeping the best technologies.
The urgency to learn about and apply evidence to buying, using, and measuring success with ed tech is pressing, but the resources and protocols they need to make it happen are scarce. These are conditions that position our school leaders for failure — unless the education community and its stakeholders get together to take some immediate actions.
This series is produced in partnership with Pearson. The 74 originally published this article on September 11th, 2017, and it was re-posted here with permission.
Question: What do we learn from a study that shows a technique or technology likely has affected an educational outcome?
Answer: Not nearly enough.
Despite widespread criticism, the field of education research continues to emphasize statistical significance—rejecting the conclusion that chance is a plausible explanation for an observed effect—while largely neglecting questions of precision and practical importance. Sure, a study may show that an intervention likely has an effect on learning, but so what? Even researchers’ recent efforts to estimate the size of an effect don’t answer key questions. What is the real-world impact on learners? How precisely is the effect estimated? Is the effect credible and reliable?
Unfortunately, education researchers are not expected to interpret the practical significance of their findings or acknowledge the often embarrassingly large degree of uncertainty associated with their observations. So, education research literature is filled with results that are almost always statistically significant but rarely informative.
Early evidence suggests that many edtech companies are following the same path. But we believe that they have the opportunity to change course and adopt more meaningful ways of interpreting and communicating research that will provide education decision makers with the information they need to help learners succeed.
Admitting What You Don’t Know
For educational research to be more meaningful, researchers will have to acknowledge its limits. Although published research often projects a sense of objectivity and certainty about study findings, accepting subjectivity and uncertainty is a critical element of the scientific process.
On the positive side, some researchers have begun to report what is known as standardized effect sizes, a calculation that helps compare outcomes in different groups on a common scale. But researchers rarely interpret the meaning of these figures. And the figures can be confusing. A ‘large’ effect actually may be quite small when compared to available alternatives or when factoring in the length of treatment, and a ‘small’ effect may be highly impactful because it is simple to implement or cumulative in nature.
Confused? Imagine the plight of a teacher trying to decide what products to use, based on evidence—an issue of increased importance since the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) promotes the use of federal funds for certain programs, based upon evidence of effectiveness. The newly-launched Evidence for ESSA admirably tries to help support that process, complementing the What Works Clearinghouse and pointing to programs that have been deemed “effective.” But when that teacher starts comparing products, say Math in Focus (effect size: +0.18) and Pirate Math (effect size: +0.37), the best choice isn’t readily apparent.
It’s also important to note that every intervention’s observed “effect” is associated with a quantifiable degree of uncertainty. By glossing over this fact, researchers risk promoting a false sense of precision and making it harder to craft useful data-driven solutions. While acknowledging uncertainty is likely to temper excitement about many research findings, in the end it will support more honest evaluations of an intervention’s likely effectiveness.
Communicate Better, Not Just More
In addition to faithfully describing the practical significance and uncertainty around a finding, there also is a need to clearly communicate information regarding research quality, in ways that are accessible to non-specialists. There has been a notable unwillingness in the broader educational research community to tackle the challenge of discriminating between high quality research and quackery for educators and other non-specialists. As such, there is a long overdue need for educational researchers to be forthcoming about the quality and reliability of interventions in ways that educational practitioners can understand and trust.
Trust is the key. Whatever issues might surround the reporting of research results, educators are suspicious of people who have never been in the classroom. If a result or debunked academic fad (e.g. learning styles) doesn’t match their experience, they will be tempted to dismiss it. As education research becomes more rigorous, relevant, and understandable, we hope that trust will grow. Even simply categorizing research as either “replicated” or “unchallenged” would be a powerful initial filtering technique given the paucity of replication research in education. The alternative is to leave educators and policy-makers intellectually adrift, susceptible to whatever educational fad is popular at the moment.
At the same time, we have to improve our understanding of how consumers of education research understand research claims. For instance, surveys reveal that even academic researchers commonly misinterpret the meaning of common concepts like statistical significance and confidence intervals. As a result, there is a pressing need to understand how those involved in education interpret (rightly or wrongly) common statistical ideas and decipher research claims.
A Blueprint For Change
So, how can the education technology community help address these issues?
Despite the money and time spent conducting efficacy studies on their products, surveys reveal that research often plays a minor role in edtech consumer purchasing decisions. The opaqueness and perceived irrelevance of edtech research studies, which mirror the reporting conventions typically found in academia, no doubt contribute to this unfortunate fact. Educators and administrators rarely possess the research and statistical literacy to interpret the meaning and implications of research focused on claims of statistical significance and measuring indirect proxies for learning. This might help explain why even well-meaning educators fall victim to “learning myths.”
And when nearly every edtech company is amassing troves of research studies, all ostensibly supporting the efficacy of their products (with the quality and reliability of this research varying widely), it is understandable that edtech consumers treat them all with equal incredulity.
So, if the current edtech emphasis on efficacy is going to amount to more than a passing fad and avoid devolving into a costly marketing scheme, edtech companies might start by taking the following actions:
Edtech researchers should interpret the practical significance and uncertainty associated with their study findings. The researchers conducting an experiment are best qualified to answer interpretive questions around the real-world value of study findings and we should expect that they make an effort to do so.
As an industry, edtech needs to work toward adopting standardized ways to communicate the quality and strength of evidence as it relates to efficacy research. The What Works Clearinghouse has made important steps, but it is critical that relevant information is brought to the point of decision for educators. This work could resemble something like food labels for edtech products.
Researchers should increasingly use data visualizations to make complex findings more intuitive while making additional efforts to understand how non-specialists interpret and understand frequently reported statistical ideas.
Finally, researchers should employ direct measures of learning whenever possible rather than relying on misleading proxies (e.g., grades or student perceptions of learning) to ensure that the findings reflect what educators really care about. This also includes using validated assessments and focusing on long-term learning gains rather than short-term performance improvement.
This series is produced in partnership with Pearson. EdSurge originally published this article on April 1, 2017, and it was re-posted here with permission.
Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, and intentions to non-human entities (OED). It has been used in storytelling from Aesop to Zootopia, and people debate its impact on how we view gods in religion and animals in the wild. This is out of scope for this short piece.
When it comes to technology, anthropomorphism is certainly more problematic than it is useful. Here are three examples:
Consider how artificial intelligence is described like a human brain, which is not how AI works. This results in people misunderstanding its potential uses, attempting to apply it in inappropriate ways, and failing to consider applications where it could provide more value. Ines Montani has written an excellent summary on AI’s PR problem.
More importantly, anthropomorphism contributes to our fear of progress, which often leads to full-blown technopanics. We are currently in a technopanic brought about by the explosion of development in automation and data science. Physically, these machines are often depicted as bipedal killing machines, which is not even the most effective form of mobility for a killing machine. Regarding intent, superintelligent machines are thought of as a threat not just to employment but our survival as a species. This assumes that these machines will treat homo sapiens similar to how homo sapiens have treated other species on this planet.
Pearson colleague Paul Del Signore asked via Twitter, “Would you say making AI speak more human-like is a successful form of anthropomorphism?” This brings to mind a third major problem with anthropomorphism: the uncanny valley. While adding humanlike interactions can contribute to good UX, too much (but not quite enough) similarity to a human can result in frustration, discomfort, and even revulsion.
Historically, we have used technology to achieve both selfish and altruistic goals. Overwhelmingly, however, technology has helped us reach a point in human civilization in which we are the most peaceful and healthy in history. In order to continue on this path, we must design machines to function in ways that utilize their best machine-like abilities.
Technopomorphism is the attribution of technological characteristics to human traits, emotions, intentions, or biological functions. Think of how people may describe a thought process like cogs in a machine or someone’s capacity for work may be described with bandwidth.
A Google search for the term “technopomorphism” only returns 40 results, and it is not listed in any online dictionary. However, I think the term is useful because it helps us to be mindful of our difference from machines.
It’s natural for humans to use imagery that we do understand to try to describe things we don’t yet understand, like consciousness. Combined with our innate fear of dying, we imagine ways of deconstructing and reconstructing ourselves as immortal or as one with technology (singularity). This is problematic for at least two reasons:
It restricts the ways in which we may understand new discoveries about ourselves to very limited forms.
It often leads to teaching and training humans to function as machines, which is not the best use of our potential as humans.
It is increasingly important that we understand how humans can best work with technology for the sake learning. In the age of exponential technologies, that which makes us most human will be most highly valued for employment and is often used for personal enrichment.
There may be some similarities, but we’re not machines. At least, not yet. In the meantime, I advocate for “centaur mentality.”
There is a crisis engulfing the social sciences. What was thought to be known about psychology—based on published results and research—is being called into question by new findings and the efforts of individual groups like the Reproducibility Project. What we know is under question and so is how we come to know. Long institutionalized practices of scientific inquiry in the social sciences are being actively questioned, proposals put forth for needed reforms.
While the fields of academia burn with this discussion, education results have remained largely untouched. But education is not immune to problems endemic in fields like psychology and medicine. In fact, there’s a strong case that the problems emerging in other fields are even worse in educational research. External or internal critical scrutiny has been lacking. A recent review of the top 100 education journals found that only 0.13% of published articles were replication studies. Education waits for its own crusading Brian Nosek to disrupt the canon of findings. Winter is coming.
This should not be breaking news. Education research has long been criticized for its inability to generate a reliable and impactful evidence base. It has been derided for problematic statistical and methodological practices that hinder knowledge accumulation and encourage the adoption of unproven interventions. For its failure to communicate the uncertainty and relevance associated with research findings, like Value-Added Measures for teachers, in ways that practitioners can understand. And for struggling to impact educational habits (at least in the US) and how we develop, buy, and learn from (see Mike Petrilli’s summation) the best practices and tools.
Unfortunately, decades of withering criticism have done little to change the methods and incentives of educational research in ways necessary to improve the reliability and usefulness of findings. The research community appears to be in no rush to alter its well-trodden path—even if the path is one of continued irrelevance. Something must change if educational research is to meaningfully impact teaching and learning. Yet history suggests the impetus for this change is unlikely to originate from within academia.
Can edtech improve the quality and usefulness of educational research? We may be biased (as colleagues at a large and scrutinized edtech company), but we aren’t naïve. We know it might sound farcical to suggest technology companies may play a critical role in improving the quality of education research, given almost weekly revelations about corporations engaging in concerted efforts to distort and shape research results to fit their interests. It’s shocking to read efforts to warp public perception on the effects of sugar on heart disease or the effectiveness of antidepressants. It would be foolish not to view research conducted or paid for by corporations with a healthy degree of skepticism.
These efforts represent opportunities to foment long-needed improvements in the practice of education research. A chance to redress education research’s most glaring weakness: its historical inability to appreciably impact the everyday activities of learning and teaching.
Incentives for edtech companies to adopt better research practices already exist and there is early evidence of openness to change. Edtech companies possess a number of crucial advantages when it comes to conducting the types of research education desperately needs, including:
access to growing troves of digital learning data;
close partnerships with institutions, faculty, and students;
the resources necessary to conduct large and representative intervention studies;
in-house expertise in the diverse specialties (e.g., computer scientists, statisticians, research methodologists, educational psychologists, UX researchers, instructional designers, ed policy experts, etc.) that must increasingly collaborate to carry out more informative research;
a research audience consisting primarily of educators, students, and other non-specialists
The real worry with edtech companies’ nascent efforts to conduct efficacy research is not that they will fail to conduct research with the same quality and objectivity typical of most educational research, but that they will fall into the same traps that currently plague such efforts. Rather than looking for what would be best for teachers and learners, entrepreneurs may focus on the wrong measures (p-values, for instance) that obfuscate people rather than enlighten them.
If this growing edtech movement repeats the follies of the current paradigm of educational research, it will fail to seize the moment to adopt reforms that can significantly aid our efforts to understand how best to help people teach and learn. And we will miss an important opportunity to enact systemic changes in research practice across the edtech industry with the hope that academia follows suit.
Our goal over the next three articles is to hold a mirror up, highlighting several crucial shortcomings of educational research. These institutionalized practices significantly limit its impact and informativeness.
We argue that edtech is uniquely incentivized and positioned to realize long-needed research improvements through its efficacy efforts.
Independent education research is a critical part of the learning world, but it needs improvement. It needs a new role model, its own George Washington Carver, a figure willing to test theories in the field, learn from them, and then to communicate them to back to practitioners. In particular, we will be focusing on three key ideas:
Why ‘What Works’ Doesn’t: Education research needs to move beyond simply evaluating whether or not an effect exists; that is, whether an educational intervention ‘works’. The ubiquitous use of null hypothesis significance testing in educational research is an epistemic dead end. Instead, education researchers need to adopt more creative and flexible methods of data analysis, focus on identifying and explaining important variations hidden under mean scores, and devote themselves to developing robust theories capable of generating testable predictions that are refined and improved over time.
Desperately Seeking Relevance: Education researchers are rarely expected to interpret the practical significance of their findings or report results in ways that are understandable to non-specialists making decisions based on their work. Although there has been progress in encouraging researchers to report standardized mean differences and correlation coefficients (i.e., effect sizes), this is not enough. In addition, researchers need to clearly communicate the importance of study findings within the context of alternative options and in relation to concrete benchmarks, openly acknowledge uncertainty and variation in their results, and refuse to be content measuring misleading proxies for what really matters.
Embracing the Milieu: For research to meaningfully impact teaching and learning, it will need to expand beyond an emphasis on controlled intervention studies and prioritize the messy, real-life conditions facing teachers and students. More energy must be devoted to the creative and problem-solving work of translating research into useful and practical tools for practitioners, an intermediary function explicitly focused on inventing, exploring, and implementing research-based solutions that are responsive the needs and constraints of everyday teaching.
Ultimately education research is about more than just publication. It’s about improving the lives of students and teachers. We don’t claim to have the complete answers but, as we expand these key principles over coming weeks, we want to offer steps edtech companies can take to improve the quality and value of educational research. These are things we’ve learned and things we are still learning.
This series is produced in partnership with Pearson. EdSurge originally published this article on January 6, 2017, and it was re-posted here with permission.
I was in Austin in 2011 for SXSW, learning from other startups, networking, and promoting my own digital products. The interactive component of the conference ended with a “surprise” performance at the enormous Stubb’s BBQ concert venue. I reluctantly waited in line with hundreds of others, hopeful to hear something like LCD Soundsystem, who had appeared in a previous year. Once we were all inside, The Foo Fighters took the stage. Considered by many to be “the last great American rock band,” they’re just not my thing. A traveling companion saw the boredom on my face and asked, “Do you want to hear something different?”
6th Street was dead for the first time all week (nearly all the conference attendees were at Stubb’s), and we popped into a small bar where about ten other patrons huddled near a wiry young man on a small stage. Delicate Steve began to play The Ballad of Speck and Pebble. My brain lit up. It was one of the most inspiring live performances I’ve ever heard.
In my kitchen, six years later, while I was making applesauce with my earbuds in, Slate’s “Political Gabfest” ended, and Mr. Boilen’s voice came on to introduce Steve Marion, aka Delicate Steve, on “All Songs Considered.” Marion talked about being a “Napster kid” as well as how he was inspired to play music after his grandmother gave him a toy guitar.
He dove into the rabbit holes of discovery that were available via the Internet to a kid living in northwestern New Jersey. Driven by curiosity and play, using the physical and virtual tools available to him, he began to create. Last year, he played slide guitar on Paul Simon’s new album, and next week, he’ll be at The Bowery Ballroom in New York City.
In McKibbon’s review in The New York Review of Books, he comments, “Spotify’s playlists show people picking the same tunes over and over.” I believe the same was true when analogue music dominated. Virgin Megastore promoted the latest big release from one of the giant record labels.
The difference now is that more tools — virtual and physical — are now available to us. How we use them is up to us. We need to ensure that everyone, especially young people are aware of them all and how to use them properly for discovery. Dig deep into that artists’s archive on Spotify. Flip through those old records on Bleeker Street.
In the late 1990’s, Jill Godmilow taught me how to edit film and sound by hand while I was a student at The University of Notre Dame. I used an 8-plate Steenbeck. It was a lot of work to cut a film like that, but it helped me understand the value of a frame: 1/24 of a second.
Now I have a child, and I try to help her understand how things work by making mechanical object available to her. She’ll pick up the hand-made kaleidoscope I brought back from London, or crank the Kikkerland music box to hear “Waltzing Matilda.” Together, we play both Minecraft and Clue. Her favorite Christmas present last month was a record player. She chooses to put on the Taylor Swift record “Red” over and over and over again. She also explores Minecraft videos made by other kids all over the world.
Some of these interaction blend the virtual and the physical, like using the Osmo pizza game, learning math while playing, or programming Dash to wheel around the apartment, learning problem-solving.
We can foster creativity and encourage exploration using whatever tools we have available to us. I am not advocating constant barrage of entertainment or toys — there is also value in escaping into a book or a tent in the woods — but new, digital tools are not necessarily a bad thing, and to many, they offer ways to learn and build, expanding their minds and enriching our culture.
Explore, be weird, enjoy what you do, learn through what you enjoy. But do be careful not to lose yourself entirely into the virtual world. The physical world offers a nearly limitless amount of new experiences and adventures. These are thrilling to us because of our human nature, and even as we learn how to embrace the digital to a greater extent, we should do so to enrich our lives, not in an attempt to replace something that doesn’t need replacing.
I will always be grateful to Jill Godmilow for showing me how to analyze the finest moving parts to a completed whole, which I often have to do in a purely digital format, where the individual elements are not so apparent. I appreciate the music from Delicate Steve, meticulously constructed with his mind and fingers through a medley of neuron-firings, Google searches, and guitar riffs.
I am thankful that my daughter wonders at our Remington typewriter and miniature carousel, watches the interlocking pieces, and reconstructs some of these relationships with blocks on her iPad, with dominos on the table, and with her friends in the schoolyard.
Answering that question through null hypothesis significance testing (NHST), which explores whether an intervention or product has an effect on the average outcome, undermines the ability to make sustained progress in helping students learn. It provides little useful information and fails miserably as a method for accumulating knowledge about learning and teaching. For the sake of efficiency and learning gains, edtech companies need to understand the limits of this practice and adopt a more progressive research agenda that yields actionable data on which to build useful products.
How does NHST look in action? A typical research question in education might be whether average test scores differ for students who use a new math game and those who don’t. Applying NHST, a researcher would assess whether a positive—i.e. non-zero—difference in scores is significant enough to conclude that the game has had an impact, or, in other words, that it ‘works’. Left unanswered is why and for whom.
This approach pervades education research. It is reflected in the U.S. government-supported initiative to aggregate and evaluate educational research, aptly named the What Works Clearinghouse, and frequently serves as a litmus test for publication worthiness in education journals. Yet it has been subjected to scathing criticism almost since its inception, criticism that centers on two issues.
False Positives And Other Pitfalls
First, obtaining statistical evidence of an effect is shockingly easy in experimental research. One of the emerging realizations from the current crisis in psychology is that rather than serving as a responsible gatekeeper ensuring the trustworthiness of published findings, reliance on statistical significance has had the opposite effect of creating a literature filled with false positives, overestimated effect sizes, and grossly underpowered research designs.
Assuming a proposed intervention involves students doing virtually anything more cognitively challenging than passively listening to lecturing-as-usual (the typical straw man control in education research), then a researcher is very likely to find a positive difference as long as the sample size is large enough. Showing that an educational intervention has a positive effect is quite a feeble hurdle to overcome. It isn’t at all shocking, therefore, that in education almost everything seems to work.
But even if these methodological concerns with NHST were addressed, there is a second serious flaw undermining the NHST framework upon which most experimental educational research rests.
Null hypothesis significance testing is an epistemic dead end. It obviates the need for researchers to put forward testable models of theories to predict and explain the effects that interventions have. In fact, the only hypothesis evaluated within the framework of NHST is a caricature, a hypothesis the researcher doesn’t believe—which is that an intervention has zero effect. A researcher’s own hypothesis is never directly tested. And yet with almost universal aplomb, education researchers falsely conclude that a rejection of the null hypothesis counts as strong evidence in favor of their preferred theory.
As a result, NHST encourages and preserves hypotheses so vague, so lacking in predictive power and theoretical content, as to be nearly useless. As researchers in psychology are realizing, even well-regarded theories, ostensibly supported by hundreds of randomized controlled experiments, can start to evaporate under scrutiny because reliance on null hypothesis significance testing means a theory is never really tested at all. As long as educational research continues to rely on testing the null hypothesis of no difference as a universal foil for establishing whether an intervention or product ‘works,’ it will fail to improve our understanding of how to help students learn.
As analysts Michael Horn and Julia Freeland have noted, this dominant paradigm of educational research is woefully incomplete and must change if we are going make progress in our understanding of how to help students learn:
“An effective research agenda moves beyond merely identifying correlations of what works on average to articulate and test theories about how and why certain educational interventions work in different circumstances for different students.”
Yet for academic researchers concerned primarily with producing publishable evidence of interventions that ‘work,’ the vapid nature of NHST has not been recognized as a serious issue. And because the NHST approach to educational research is relatively straightforward and safe to conduct (researchers have an excellent chance of getting the answer they want), a quick perusal of the efficacy pages at leading edtech companies shows that it holds as the dominant paradigm in edtech.
Are there, however, reasons to think edtech companies might be incentivized to abandon the current NHST paradigm? We think there are.
What About The Data You’re Not Capturing?
Consider a product owner at an edtech company. Although evidence that an educational product has a positive effect is great for producing compelling marketing brochures, it provides little information regarding why a product works, how well it works in different circumstances, or really any guidance for how to make it more effective.
Are some product features useful and others not? Are some features actually detrimental to learners but masked by more effective elements?
Is the product more or less effective for different types of learners or levels of prior expertise?
What elements should be added, left alone or removed in future versions of the product?
Testing whether a product works doesn’t provide answers to these questions. In fact, despite all the time, money, and resources spent conducting experimental research, a company actually learns very little about their product’s efficacy when evaluated using NHST. There is minimal ability to build on research of this sort. So product research becomes a game of efficacy roulette, with the company just hoping that findings show a positive effect each time it spins the NHST wheel. Companies truly committed to innovation and improving the effectiveness of their products should find this a very bitter pill to swallow.
A Blueprint For Change
We suggest edtech companies can vastly improve both their own product research as well as our understanding of how to help students learn by modifying their approach to research in several ways.
Recognize the limited information NHST can provide. As the primary statistical framework for moving our understanding of learning and teaching forward, it is misapplied because it ultimately tells us nothing that we actually want to know. Furthermore, it contributes to the proliferation of spurious findings in education by encouraging questionable research practices and the reporting of overestimated intervention effects.
Instead of relying on NHST, edtech researchers should focus on putting forward theoretically informed predictions and then designing experiments to test them against meaningful alternatives. Rather than rejecting the uninteresting hypothesis of “no-difference,” the primary goal of edtech research should be to improve our understanding of the impact that interventions have, and the best way to do this is to compare models that compete to describe observations that arise from experimentation.
Rather than dichotomous judgments about whether an intervention works on average, greater evaluative emphasis should be devoted to exploring the impact of interventions across subsets of students and conditions. No intervention works equally well for every student and it’s the creative and imaginative work of trying to understand why and where an intervention fails or succeeds that is most valuable.
Returning to our original example, rather than relying on NHST to evaluate a math game, a company will learn more by trying to improve its estimates and measurements of important variables, looking beneath group mean differences to explore why the game worked better or worse for sub-groups of students, and directly testing competing theoretical mechanisms proposed to explain the game’s influence on learner achievement. It is in this way that practical, problem-solving tools will develop and evolve to improve the lives of all learners.
This series is produced in partnership with Pearson. EdSurge originally published this article on February 12, 2017, and it was re-posted here with permission.
This is the second in a series of essays surrounding the EdTech Efficacy Research Symposium, a gathering of 275 researchers, teachers, entrepreneurs, professors, administrators, and philanthropists to discuss the role efficacy research should play in guiding the development and implementation of education technologies. This series was produced in partnership with Pearson, a co-sponsor of the symposium co-hosted by the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, Digital Promise, and the Jefferson Education Accelerator. Read the first piece here.
But as curricula and learning tools are prepared for rigorous evaluation, we should think about how existing research on teaching and learning have informed their design. Building a movement around research and impact must include advocating for products based on learning research. Otherwise, we are essentially taking a “wait and hope” strategy to development: wait until we have something built and hope it works.
When we make a meal, we want to at least have a theory about what each ingredient we include will contribute to the overall meal. How much salt do we put in to flavor it perfectly? When do we add it in? Similarly, when creating a curriculum or technology tool, we should be thinking about how each element impacts and optimizes overall learning. For example, how much and when do we add in a review of already-learned material to ensure memory retention? For this, we can turn to learning science as a guide.
We know a lot about how people learn. Our understanding comes from fields as varied as cognitive and educational psychology, motivational psychology, neuroscience, behavioral economics, and computer science. There are research findings that have been replicated repeatedly across dozens of studies. If we want to create educational technology tools that ultimately demonstrate efficacy, these learning science findings should serve as the foundation, integrating the insights from decades of research into how people learn and how teachers teach into product design from the beginning.
Spaced practice: We know that extending practice over time is better than cramming all practice into the few days before an exam. Spaced practice strengthens information retention and keeps it fresh over time, interrupting the “forgetting curve.” Implementing spaced practice could be as simple as planning out review time. Technology can help implement spaced practice in at least two ways: 1) prompting students to make their own study calendars and 2) proactively presenting already-learned information for periodic review.
Retrieval practice: What should that practice look like? Rather than rereading or reading and highlighting, we know it is better for students to actually retrieve the information from memory because retrieving the information actually changes the nature of the memory for the information. It strengthens and solidifies the learning, as well as provides more paths to access the learning when you need it. Learners creating flashcards have known about this strategy for a long time. RetrievalPractice.org offers useful information and helpful applications building on this important principle. There is a potential danger point here for designers not familiar with learning literature. Since multiple-choice activities are easier to score with technology, it is tempting to create these kinds of easy questions for retrieval practice. However, learning will be stronger if students practice freely recalling the information rather than simply recognizing the answer from choices.
Elaboration: Taking new information and expanding on it, linking it to other known information and personal experience, is another way to improve memory for new concepts. Linking new information to information that is already known can make it easy to recall later. In addition, simply expanding on information and explaining it in different ways can make retrieval easier. One way to practice this is to take main ideas and ask how they work and why. Another method is to have students draw or fill in concept maps, visually linking ideas and experiences together. There are a number of online tools that have been developed for creating concept maps, and current research is focusing on how to provide automated feedback on them.
So how many educational technology products actually incorporate these known practices? How do they encourage students to engage in these activities in a systematic way?
Existing research on instructional use of technology
For example, there is a solid research base on how to design activities that introduce new material prior to formal instruction. It suggests that students should initially be given a relatively difficult, open-ended problem that they are asked to solve. Students, of course, tend to struggle with this activity, with almost no students able to generate the “correct” approach. However, the effort students spend in this activity has been shown to build a better foundation for future instruction to build on as students have a better understanding of the problem to be solved (e.g., Wiedmann, Leach, Rummel & Wiley, 2012Belenky & Nokes-Malach, 2012. It is clearly important that this type of activity be presented to students as a chance to explore and that failure is accepted, expected, and encouraged. In contrast, an activity meant to be part of practice following direct instruction would likely include more step-by-step feedback and hints. So, if someone wants to design activities to be used prior to instruction, they might 1) select a fundamental idea from a lesson, 2) create multiple cases for which students must find an all-encompassing rule, and 3) situate those cases in an engaging scenario.
Schwartz of Stanford University tested this idea with students learning about ratios — without telling them they were learning about ratios. Three cases with different ratios were created based on the number of objects in a space. This was translated into the number of clowns in different-sized vehicles, and students were asked to develop a “crowded clowns index” to measure how crowded the clowns are in the vehicles. Students are not specifically told about ratios, but must uncover that concept themselves.
Product developers should consider research like this when designing their ed tech tools, as well as when they’re devising professional development programs for educators who will use those technologies in the classroom.
Product makers must consider these questions when designing ed tech: Will the activity the technology facilitates be done before direct instruction? Will it be core instruction? Will it be used to review? How much professional development needs to be provided to teachers to ensure the fidelity of implementation at scale?
Too often, designers think there is a singular answer to this series of questions: “Yes.” But in trying to be everything, we are likely to end up being nothing. Existing research on instructional uses of technology can help developers choose the best approach and design for effective implementation.
With this research as foundation, though, we still have to cook the dish and taste it. Ultimately, applying learning science at scale to real-world learning situations is an engineering activity. It may require repeated iterations and ongoing measurement to get the mix of ingredients “just right” for a given audience, or a given challenging learning outcome. We need to make sure to carefully understand and tweak our learning environments, using good piloting techniques to find out both whether our learners and teachers can actually execute what we intend as we intended it (Is the learning intervention usable? Are teachers and students able to implement it as intended?), and whether the intervention gives us the learning benefits we hoped for (effectiveness).
The key is that research should be informing development from the very beginning of an idea for a product, and an evidence-based “learning engineering” orientation should continue to be used to monitor and iterate changes to optimize impact. If we are building from a foundation of research, we are greatly increasing the probability that, when we get to those iterated and controlled trials after the product is created, we will in fact see improvements over time in learning outcomes.
This is the first in a series of essays surrounding the EdTech Efficacy Research Symposium, a gathering of 275 researchers, teachers, entrepreneurs, professors, administrators, and philanthropists to discuss the role efficacy research should play in guiding the development and implementation of education technologies. This series was produced in partnership with Pearson, a co-sponsor of the symposium co-hosted by the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, Digital Promise, and the Jefferson Education Accelerator.
To improve education in America, we must improve how we develop and use education technology.
Teachers and students are increasingly using digital tools and platforms to support learning inside and outside the classroom every day. There are 3.6 million teachers using ed tech, and approximately one in four college students take online courses — four times as many as a decade earlier. Technology will impact the 74 million children currently under the age of 18 as they progress through the pre-K–12 education system. The key question is: What can we do to make sure that the education technology being developed and deployed today fits the needs of 21st-century learners?
Our teachers and students deserve high-quality tools that provide evidence of student learning, and that provide the right kind of evidence — evidence that can tell us whether the tool is influencing the intended learning outcomes.
Evidence and efficacy can no longer be someone else’s problem to be solved at some uncertain point in the future. The stakes are too high. We all have a role to play in ensuring that the money spent in ed tech (estimated at $13.2 billion in 2016 for K-12) lives up to the promise of enabling more educators, schools, and colleges to genuinely improve outcomes for students and help close persistent equity gaps.
Still, education is complex. Regardless of the quality of a learning tool, there will be no singular, foolproof ed tech solution that will work for every student and teacher across the nation. Context matters. Implementation matters. Technology will always only be one element of an instructional intervention, which will also include instructor practices, student experiences, and multiple other contextual factors.
Figuring out what actually works and why it works requires intentional planning, dedicated professional development, thoughtful implementation, and appropriate evaluation. This all occurs within a context of inconsistent and shifting incentives and, in the U.S., involves a particularly complex ecosystem of stakeholders. And unfortunately, despite the deep and vested interest of improving the system, the current ecosystem is many times better at supporting the status quo than introducing a potentially better-suited learning tool.
That’s the challenge to be taken up by the EdTech Efficacy Research Symposium in Washington, D.C., this week, and the work underway as part of the initiative convened by the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, Digital Promise, and the Jefferson Education Accelerator. People like us rarely have the opportunity to collaborate, but this issue is too important to go it alone.
Over the past six months, 10 working groups consisting of approximately 150 people spent valuable hours together learning about the challenges associated with improving efficacy and exploring opportunities to address these challenges. We’ve looked at issues such as how ed tech decisions are made in K-12 and higher education, what philanthropy can do to encourage more evidence-based decision-making, as well as what will be necessary to make the focus on efficacy and transparency of outcomes core to how ed tech companies operate.
Over the next six weeks, we’ll explore these themes here, sharing findings and recommendations from the working groups. Our hope is to stimulate not just discussion but also practical action and concrete progress.
Action and progress might look like new ways to use research in decision-making such as informational site Evidence for ESSA or tools that make it easier for education researchers to connect with teachers, districts, and ed tech companies, like the forthcoming National Education Researcher Database. Collaboration is critical to improving how we use research in ed tech, but it’s not easy. Building a common framework takes time. Acting on that framework is harder.
So, as a starting point, here are three broader issues that we’ve learned about efficacy and evidence from our work so far.
Everyone wants research and implementation analysis done, but nobody wants to pay more for it
We know it’s not realistic to expect that the adoption of each ed tech product or curricular innovation will be backed up by a randomized control trial.
Investors are reticent to fund these studies, while schools or developers rarely want to pick up the price tag for expensive studies. When Richard Culatta and Katrina Stevens were still at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, they pointed out that “it wouldn’t be economically feasible for most app creators (or schools) to spend $250k (a low price tag for traditional educational research) to evaluate the effectiveness of an app that only cost a total of $50k to build.”
We could spend more efficiently, leveraging the 15,000 tiny pilots and decisions underway into new work and new insights without spending more money. This could look like a few well-designed initiatives to gather and share relevant information about implementations and efficacy. Critically, we’ll need to find a sustainability model for that type of rigorous evaluation to ensure this becomes a key feature in how adoption decisions are made.
We need to recognize that evidence exists on a continuum
Different types of evidence can support different purposes. What is important is that each decision is supported by an appropriate level of evidence. This guide by Mathematica provides a useful reference for educators on different evidence types and how they should be viewed. For educators, it would be wise to look at the scale and cost of the decision and determine the appropriate type of evidence.
It’s important to remember that researchers and philanthropists may use education research for different purposes than would a college, university system, or districts. Academic researchers may be looking to identify causal connections, learning gains, or retention rates, while a district is often focused on a specific context and implementation (what works for schools similar to mine).
When possible, traditional randomized control trials provide useful information, but they’re often not affordable, feasible, or even necessarily appropriate. For example, many districts, schools, or colleges are not accustomed to or well versed in undertaking this type of research themselves.
It’s easy to blame other actors for the current lack of evidence-driven decisions in education
Everyone we spoke to agrees that decisions about ed tech should be made on the basis of merit and fit, not marketing or spin. But nearly everyone thinks that this problem is caused by other actors in the ecosystem, and this means that progress here will require hard work and coordination.
For example, investors often don’t screen their investments for efficacy, nor do they promote their portfolio companies to necessarily undertake sufficient research. Not surprisingly, this tends to be because such research is costly and doesn’t necessarily drive market growth. It’s also because market demand is not driven by evidence. It’s simply not the case that selection choices for tools or technologies are most often driven by learning impact or efficacy research. That may be shifting slowly, but much more needs to be done.
Entrepreneurs and organizations whose products are of the highest quality are frustrated that schools are too often swayed by their competitors’ flashy sales tactics. Researchers feel that their work is underappreciated and underutilized. Educators feel overwhelmed by volume and claims, and are frustrated by a lack of independent information and professional support. We have multiple moving pieces that must be brought together in order to improve our system.
Ensuring that ed tech investments truly help close achievement gaps and expand student opportunity will require engagement and commitments from a disparate group of stakeholders to help invent a new normal so that our collective progress is directional and meaningful. To make progress on this, we must bring the conversation of efficacy and the use of evidence to center stage.
That’s what we’re hoping to help continue with this symposium. We’ve learned much, but we know that the journey is just beginning. We can’t do it alone. Feel free to follow and join the conversation on Twitter with #ShowTheEvidence.
Aubrey Francisco, Chief Research Officer, Digital Promise
Bart Epstein, Founding CEO, Jefferson Education Accelerator
Gunnar Counselman, Chief Executive Officer, Fidelis Education
Katrina Stevens, former Deputy Director, Office of Educational Technology, U.S. Department of Education
Luyen Chou, Chief Product Officer, Pearson
Mahnaz Charania, Director, Strategic Planning and Evaluation, Fulton County Schools, Georgia
Mark Grovic, Co-Founder and General Partner, New Markets Venture Partners
Rahim Rajan, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Robert Pianta, Dean, University of Virginia Curry School of Education
Rebecca Griffiths, Senior Researcher, Center for Technology in Learning, SRI International
This series is produced in partnership with Pearson. The 74 originally published this article on May 1, 2017, and it was re-posted here with permission.