Disruptive Innovation & Education

I was not surprised to see the NCGA Repubs were holding a closed meeting Thursday on education issues. Held behind closed doors In Kannapolis and not open to the public, they had several presentations, mostly from entities that favor the privatization of public schools.

I sat in on the NCGA Education Oversight committee meeting last Tuesday, where only one bill was brought forward. That draft bill will fix a situation where a retired educator is asked to come back to work temporarily, but IRS regs forced the school system to give them a bronze-level health care plan, whereas in retirement, they have a gold-level plan. Many were not heeding the call for temp employment so they did not lose the higher level of health insurance. The proposed bill (no number for it yet) will fix that situation.

I was surprised that this was the only bill. The committee had heard testimony on several other issues: UNC tuition, vocational training for individuals with intellectual disabilities, Elizabeth City State University, Race to the Top, the AP United States history class standards, and the pilot virtual charter schools. Not to mention the desire to expand vouchers. Then, the only bill they proposed was reasonable and actually needed. It felt as if something was being kept under wraps.

One of the presentations mentioned in the news articles on this private meeting for the GOP caucus was a guest speaker from the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation. http://www.christenseninstitute.org This is an overly simplistic explanation, but the concept of disruptive innovation says that technological advances have a disruptive affect on existing businesses. Christensen took that idea and pointed out that the disruption was because the business model could not adapt, not necessarily because of the technology.

What, you ask, does a business term like disruptive innovation have to do with education in North Carolina? The presupposition is that our traditional public schools have not been able to adapt advances in technology into their ‘business model.’ Technology in this case seems to refer to on-line classes. Some tout a ‘blended education’ which would allow students to take some classes in a physical school building and some classes at home on line. (This model is often discussed but no one mentions how these students wold be transported from home to school, and that could be terribly complex). And others are interested in a total on line education experience. Those people put a requirement to open two virtual on line schools in our state into last year’s state budget. Sen. Jerry Tillman talked about virtual education quite a lot in last year’s committee meetings.

‘Disruptive innovation’ is one of the tools to be used for the destruction of public schools as we know them. If you had any doubts as to the ultimate goal of the right wing in regards to education, you can put them to rest now.



Great point

‘Disruptive innovation’ is one of the tools to be used for the destruction of public schools as we know them. If you had any doubts as to the ultimate goal of the right wing in regards to education, you can put them to rest now.

Nothing gets under my skin worse than when ideologues on the right use seemingly intellectual terminology to cloak their true motives. JLF and Civitas love parading such "research" around, and (unfortunately) many of the dim bulbs in the NCGA lap it right up.

Murphy's Law & the Digital Classroom

Ironic, that just as many college professors are considering banning laptops from their classrooms our NC policy makers are working to push computers as full- or part-time learning tools. Nancy Swisher of Raleigh has written an interesting piece in the N&O on the digital classroom.

Most of us recognize the advantages of students’ using digital devices in the classroom: instant access to up-to-date information, enhanced student engagement, accommodation of diverse learning styles, opportunities for content sharing and immediate feedback. But what are the drawbacks?

First of all, classroom teachers may not be skilled in working across the various platforms and operating systems on student devices. Some virtual-school instructors may not be well prepared to deal with distance education.

Current researchers say that while many digital texts and other learning materials do a good job of motivating and engaging young people, they also pose a number of problems.

A 2013 Scientific American article suggests that reading on paper still has unique advantages. The author observes that studies indicate people often understand and remember text read on paper better than that read on a screen, as screens may inhibit comprehension by preventing people from intuitively navigating and mentally mapping long texts. Noting that, in general, screens are more cognitively and physically taxing than paper, he adds that preliminary research indicates that even so-called digital natives are more likely to recall the gist of a story they read on paper because enhanced e-books and e-readers themselves are distracting.

More recent studies by a research team from West Chester University of Pennsylvania corroborate these findings.

According to a 2014 Education Week article, Andrew Dillon, the dean of the school of information at the University of Texas at Austin, maintains that the tension between digital reading’s tendency to foster increased engagement but discourage deeper comprehension is presenting a massive new challenge for schools. “There’s been this huge push from tech companies to get their stuff into classrooms, but that’s purely a commercial venture,” he said. The article concludes that mobile devices, especially digital tablets as they are now being used in the classroom, are not supporting the kinds of extended, rich interactions with text exacted by contemporary educational standards.

In addition to luring students off-task and compromising reading comprehension, digital devices in the classroom can contribute to sensory overload and interfere with sleep quality when students also use them extensively at home.

Despite these drawbacks, the impetus to transition to a digital instructional model has reached critical mass and is not likely to be reversed. The current challenge is to decide how our schools will adapt to this new model, not whether they will. It is, therefore, incumbent upon state policymakers and school administrators to find resources to ensure that all schools have adequate infrastructure with sufficient broadband capabilities and can lend technical support when things inevitably go awry.

They must provide clear recommendations and guidelines for effective use of electronic devices in the classroom and offer professional development opportunities that give teachers the time and tools to explore best practices.

Yes, the state of North Carolina already has a comprehensive digital learning plan in place. But Murphy’s Law is particularly applicable to technology. If anything can go wrong, it will. And at the worst possible time.


Still More on Digital Classrooms

Noel Enyedy, associate professor of education and information studies at UCLA, reports more on learning in the digital classroom.

But maybe it’s time to step back and actually assess the actual evidence about the limits-and successes-of technology in the classroom. What really has been delivered in the way of improved student learning?

It has been an era of “unfulfilled promises,” says Noel Enyedy….

“Computers in the classroom are commonplace but teaching practices often look similar, as do student outcomes,” Enyedy writes…

... he urges caution in rushing to adopt new tools.

“Clearly, as we move forward, technology will be in the classroom in one form or another. It is unrealistic and irresponsible not to figure out how to use technology well.” Enyedy believes the promise of “personalized instruction” has fallen short, however.

Tech advocates usually tout personalized instruction as the foundation of computer-based learning. Personalized instruction, Enyedi explains, emphasizes “tailoring the pace, order, location, and content of a lesson” for the individual student. This is not to be confused with “personalized learning,” which is more about adapting learning environments in a variety of ways to engage and motivate as many students as possible.

Still, many people do confuse the two, and, more troublesome, the evidence that personalized instruction produces improved student outcomes is at best minimal or even non-existent. In surveying the available research, Enyedy argues that the results do not justify the enormity of the investment or the effort to upend traditional classroom environments.

One personalized instruction system that showed some degree of success is blended learning, which fuses face-to-face instruction with some facet of online learning (the “flipped” classroom is an increasingly popular model). But Enyedy cautions that the research into blended learning is somewhat incomplete because it tends not to control for changes in teacher pedagogy, making it difficult to determine what specific factors led to the improvement.

Despite its potential, blended learning models are also expensive, incurring new costs in the form of new infrastructure, licenses, professional development, and maintenance. Still, at least the approach shows some promise. Other models, which don’t have much of a track record, are held up as being more cost efficient than brick-and-mortar schools, another dubious claim not supported by the facts.

Enyedy believes that technology in the classroom has a valuable role to play in American education, but its potential has, to a large extent, been squandered by empty promises, ill-defined goals and outdated strategies. Personalized instruction – tailored mostly to the use of desktop computers – cannot transform learning when technology has moved on.

“We need a new vision for educational technology,” he writes. “We need technologies that are based on what we know about the process of learning an take advantage of the mobile, network technologies of today.”

Among Enyedy’s recommendations:

-Continue to invest in technology but take a more incremental approach. Policymakers should also be more skeptical about some of the claims put forth by tech companies.

-Create more partnerships between developers and educators to truly discover what works and what doesn’t in the classroom. “We cannot trust market forces alone to sort out which systems are effective,” Enyedy writes.

-School administrators must ensure that rigorous professional development accompany new investments in technology to build “skills that have not historically been in the teacher toolbox.”

You can find the rest of the article here:

Be a shame to lose a great

Be a shame to lose a great basketball prospect because he took K12 Inc classes, wouldn't it?