District Administration Magazine Webinar on Blended Learning…..check it out

Blended learning – the powerful combination of real-time and online interaction— is being adopted across the country to improve math teaching and student learning. By implementing an online supplemental math program that utilizes intelligent adaptive learning™ technology, your school or district can easily and effectively provide personalized instruction in the classroom and at home for all students, regardless of level or ability. Attend this web seminar to learn how to get started with blended learning and the keys to successfully adopting this latest technology to improve achievement of your elementary math students.

Topics will include:

  • The importance and efficacy of blended learning
  • Evaluating curriculum and blended learning model options
  • The latest and most effective technology used in elementary-level mathematics

20 Tips for Creating a Professional Learning Network

“20 Tips for Creating a Professional Learning Network” by Miriam Clifford first appeared on the InfomED blog.

Networking is a prime form of 21st century learning.  The world is much smaller thanks to technology.  Learning is transforming into a globally collaborative enterprise.  Take for example scientists; professional networks allow the scientific community to share discoveries much faster.

Just this month, a tech news article showcased how Harvard scientists are considering that “sharing discoveries is more efficient and honorable than patenting them.”  This idea embodies the true spirit of a successful professional learning network: collaboration for its own sake.

As educators, we aim to be connected to advance our craft.  On another level, we hope to teach students to use networks to prepare for them for a changing job market.  But what is the best way to approach PLNs?

Learning networks are based on the theory of connectivism, or learning from diverse social webs.  Connectivism implies that learning relies on communicating ideas with others.  PLNs facilitate learning through meaningful interactions.  The advantages of PLNs today are two-fold.  In one way, they can improve classroom teaching and help develop new projects. On the other hand, they act as a form of communal intelligence that changes societal perceptions.

What are some ways to grow your PLN and improve the quality of your interactions?  As you will see, there are diverse ways to build your network and many new management tools.   Here are some simple tips:



10 Tips For Using PLN’s

  1. Keep the spirit of collaboration as your driving force.  PLNs are all about working together.  Be reciprocal and resourceful.  Don’t think about what you have to gain, first think about what you have to give. Why?  Because it’s the right thing to do.  By buying into the process and sharing useful information, your PLN grows naturally.  Collaboration creates a common ground and allows others to see your interests.  Genuine interest builds a solid, authentic network.  Try to see the big picture of how your ideas can change the world.  Social responsibility is the best kind of motivation for establishing a PLN.


  1. Join an online community.  Nings are online rings of people with similar interests. Sharing ideas and contacting people for direct feedback is more effective in a community setting.   Communities such as, Classroom 2.0  and The Educator’s PLN provide a meaningful circle of experts.  They provide professional development resources, such as online events, and are a great place to start networking.  Plus, using MightybellEdmodo, or Ning you can create your own virtual space to share pictures, documents, calendars, or projects.


  1. Join a Meetup group.  Meetups are common thread interest groups that meet in the real world.  The groups can also extend in social networks.  For instance, social studies teachers in your district or city might create a group to share teaching ideas.  Meetups take online networks and bring them into the real world.  And if you can’t meet online try using a cyberspace, like Google+ HangOut, SecondLife, or Skype. Some university academics even have virtual labs on SecondLife.


  1. Become a beacon of light.  PLNs rely on open sharing of information.  So if you know something, share it!  It’s best to start with a specific interest and then grow into other topics as time goes on. Become an expert in your niche by researching current trends.  This will draw a larger following on your network, because you can provide a novel source of information.  You might write a blog, start a Scoopit page to repost interesting articles, share a free tool, or create a Youtube video.  Cater to your strengths and use what’s comfortable for you.


  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  After all, PLNs are all about learning.  But don’t ask questions that you can easily research yourself.  Try simple searches on TED talks, Wikis, blogs, or news articles before posting a question. Try to be specific and think of how a question might generate interest from others.  For example, you may want to refer to an article or research study when asking a question.  Be specific!  This will generate the best answers.


  1. Be an active participant.  Brain power is the main asset of a PLN.  Spend some time to identify a specific cause and communicate it on your profile.  Let your knowledge of a specific cause help grow your PLN.  Keep up to date with your niche.  Stay relevant.  Try to post at least once a week.


  1. Remember to be polite and acknowledge contributions to the rightful owner. Show common respect for the people in your network.  This may seem like common sense, but can be a pitfall.  It took me some time to learn “web etiquette” over the years, but it has helped me tremendously.   Send thank you notes, acknowledgements, and use your true voice.  Not only does it make the other person’s day, but it will help you gain more meaningful connections.


  1. Designate a professional and personal account.  I keep my social life on Facebook and my professional life on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.  There can be some crossover, but it’s best to keep it minimal so things are easy to find.  Certain groups will appreciate different types of content.  Your Facebook friends might find your baby’s stories adorable, but your Twitter followers might not appreciate extra messages cluttering their inbox.  Do this in ways that are comfortable to you.  You might designate accounts for each sphere of your life.


  1. Create a landing page.  It may be a good idea to consolidate all of your accounts on a landing page.  A webpage or personal blog will make it easier for people to find you.  It will also create a space where you can showcase the different projects you are working on.


  1. Engage newbies.  It is best to include a mix of newbies, peers, and experts.  Having this type of diversity in knowledge allows you to increase your mentoring skills.  It keeps with the essence of collaboration.  One blogger in Australia provided a great visual and commentary on how varying levels of expertise are vital to developing a meaningful PLN.  He describes how he learned in a PLN learning MOOC that the 3’Rs have been replaced by the 3 C’s Collaborate, Communicate, and Create.  PLNS create new projects through the power of active collaboration.



10 Tools & Strategies for Establishing a Productive PLN

  1. Use DiigoEvernotePocket, or Delicious to bookmark links.  You can access them anywhere and on any device.  For example, Diigo is like creating your own personal library.  Diigo is the preferred tool for educators.
  2. It allows you to highlight paragraphs and clip pictures while you are reading.
  3. You can bookmark a page in a “virtual” library or online archive, even PDFs or videos.  You can add your own tags to search for information later.
  4. Your entire school and class can add Diigo as a group, so that you can share resources.  For example, a chemistry class might share a digital periodic table, online lessons, or practice assignments.  Here is a great video about how to set up Diigo specifically for education.  They have specific accounts for educators to create a shared school library.


  1. Use a reader to subscribe to blogs.  Google reader allows you to manage multiple subscriptions to blogs. This allows easier access to new research.  You can also use an application like Scribd or Yahoo News Social to publically share what you read with others.


  1. Establish your own platform. Consider establishing a blog site on WordPress or  A blog provides a worldwide stage to share your views of education. You can spread your passion and find kindred spirits.  From there, you can develop lasting connections and plan new projects.  Fellow bloggers will appreciate the time you put into creating meaningful materials. Your ideas can be then be re-shared as a link. Many teachers keep class webpage or use applications such as PB works to share ideas.


  1. Share on Twitter first. Twitter reigns king, for now.  Anything can change with technology, but Twitter is the most commonly used tool among academics for expanding PLNs.  LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ also provide access to different types of networks. Later, you can use other tools to further expand and manage your network, such as Skype and Google tools. Many new platforms are emerging so stay current by reading tech or social media news on a site such as, Mashable.


  1. Consider your role. The article “Individual Learning” sheds some light on learning roles. Consider your learning style when designing a specific approach to your PLN:
  2. Activist-Learning by doing, such as writing a blog.
  3. Reflector- Learn by reviewing situations, such as posting opinions to articles.
  4. Theorist-Prefer to learn by researching information and data, such as by creating a model.
  5. Pragmatist-Apply learning to real situations, such as by creating a project that uses PLNs in the classroom.

According to Wikipedia, PLN roles can include, “searcher, assemblator, designer of data, innovator of subject matter, and researcher”.


  1. Aggregate resources together. Applications like FlipToast and HootSuite allow you to merge all of your social media accounts into one interface. You may want to play around with different types of portals until you find the one that is right for you. Map out an organized plan for using your PLN. There is a great chart of resources for mapping out your PLN plan on this blog.


  1. Take a free course to learn about PLNs. MOOCs are Massive Online Open Courses that are free to the public.  For instance, this course complete with handouts shows you how to establish a PLN.  You learn actively by taking small steps to create your PLN, such as creating a blog, twitter account, and content.


  1. Stay current with new tools. For example, try Pearltrees. This is one of my favorite new tools for PLNs.  Pearltrees is basically a visual organizer for your links.  Pearls are collaborative and public.  You can add pearls as you browse and share them with others on Twitter and Facebook.  Customize your experience.   There are many specific tools on different applications that allow you to customize and organize your PLN to fit your own needs.  Chrome and Windows 8 have several free applications that are worth trying.


  1. Simplify logins. You can speed up the log in process by installing a Password management application.  To further simply your PLN, use Google to keep a shared document drive, email, chat, and Google+ networking in one place.


  1. Establish a classroom learning network. Share your own expertise with other educators on a website or blog.  Create a class website or teach students how to create their own PLN. You might want to design a classroom project that relies on using one aspect of PLNs.  Doing so allows you to learn new ways to use PLNs. A YouTube video, The Networked Student, does an excellent job of explaining how a student might engage in a PLN. Teach students how to establish a PLN in small steps.  For instance, they might use Google scholar to research a paper or share ideas on Google Hangouts.


PLNs are a powerful change agent. And in today’s world an online professional learning network is indispensable.  Technology allows easy access to an unparalleled network of professional resources. Growing your network can lead to opportunities for professional growth and help change the future of education.


Feel free to add the InformED team on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.


Read more:

Numbers Can Lie: What TIMSS and PISA Truly Tell Us, if Anything?

“America’s Woeful Public Schools: TIMSS Sheds Light on the Need for Systemic Reform”[1]

“Competitors Still Beat U.S. in Tests”[2]

“U.S. students continue to trail Asian students in math, reading, science”[3]

These are a few of the thousands of headlines generated by the release of the 2011 TIMSS and PIRLS results today. Although the results are hardly surprising or news worthy, judging from the headlines, we can expect another global wave of handwringing, soul searching, and calls for reform. But before we do, we should ask how meaningful these scores and rankings are.

“Numbers don’t lie,” many may say but what truth do they tell? Look at the following numbers:

Table 1: Scores and Attitudes of 8th Graders in TIMSS 2011

Country Math Scores Confidence (%) (4th Grade) Value Math (%)
Korea 613 03 (11) 14
Singapore 611 14 (21) 43
Chinese Taipei 609 07 (20) 13
Hong Kong 586 07 (24) 26
Japan 570 02 (09) 13
United States 509 24 (40) 51
England 507 16 (33) 48
Australia 505 17 (38) 46

These are the scores of 8th graders and percentage of them saying they are confident in math and value math. Top scoring Korea has only 3% of students feeling confident in their math and 14% valuing math, in contrast is Australia with much lower scores but significantly higher percentage of students feeling confident in math and valuing math. In fact, the top 5 East Asian countries in math scores have way fewer students reporting confidence in math and valuing math than the U.S., England, and Australia, all scored significantly lower.

It gives me a headache to understand these numbers: Do they mean that even if the Korean students do not think math is important, they study it anyway? and they have a very effective education that can make people who do not value math to be outstanding in it? Or since these are 8th graders, do they mean that after learning math for 8 years, the students feel the math they have been learning is not important in life? In the case of the United States, do they mean that American students value math but have poor math learning experiences that lead to low math achievement? Or could it be that their 8 years of math learning convinced them, at least a much larger proportion than in Korea, that math is important?

The same questions can be asked about confidence. Do the numbers mean that Korean students lack of confidence makes them study harder so they achieve better in math than their American or Australian counterparts? Or could they mean that the way math is taught in Korea made them lose confidence in math?

The data show that as students progress toward higher grades, they become less confident in their math learning. More fourth graders than eighth graders have confidence in math, for example.  Does this mean the more they learn, the less confident they become?

Or perhaps these numbers are not related at all. But the TIMSS report suggests that within countries students with higher scores are more likely to have a more positive attitude towards math, that is, a positive correlation. A negative correlation is found between countries and has been a pattern as Tom Loveless discovered in previous TIMSS. So somehow math scores, attitudes, and confidence are related. Perhaps whatever in an education system or culture that boosts math scores leads to less positive attitude and lower confidence at the same time. In this case, one needs to ask what is more important: scores, or confidence and positive attitude?

There can be other interpretations but whatever the interpretation is, these numbers show that results of TIMSS, or other international assessments such as the PISA, are a lot more complex than what the headlines attempt to suggest: Asians are great, America sucks, so do Australia and England. The TIMSS and PISA scores are perhaps worth much less than politicians and the media make of them, as the rest of this paper shows.

The Numbers Don’t Lie: A Long History of Bad Performance on International Tests

According to historical data, American education has always been bad and actually improving over the years. In the 1960s, when the First International Mathematics Study (FIMS) and the First International Science Study (FISS)[4] was conducted, U.S. students ranked bottom in virtually all categories:

11th out of 12 (8th grade -13 year old math)

12th out 12 (12th grade math for math students)

10th out 12 (12th grade math for non-math students)

7th out 19 (14 year-old science)

14th out of 19 (12th grade science)

In the 1980s, when the Second International Mathematics Study (SIMS) and Second International Science Study (SISS)[5] were conducted, U.S. students inched up a little bit, but not much:

10th out of 20 (8th grade-Arithmetic)

12th out of 20 (8th grade-Algebra)

16th out of 20 (8th grade-Geometry)

18th out of 20 (8th grade-Measurement)

8th out of 20 (8th grade-Statistics)

12th out of 15 (12th grade-Number Systems)

14th out of 15 (12th grade-Algebra)

12th out of 15 (12th grade-Geometry)

12th out of 15 (12th grade-Calculus)

14th out of 17 (14 year-old Science)

14th out of 14 (12th grade-Biology)

122h out of 14 (12th grade-Chemistry)

10th out of 14 (12th grade-Physics)

In the 1990s, in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)[6], American test performance was not the best but again improved:

28th out 41 (but only 20 countries performed significantly better) (8th grade math)

17th out 41 (but only 9 countries performed significantly better) (8th grade science)

In 2003, in TIMSS[7] (now changed into Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study), U.S. students were not great, but again improved:

15th out of 45 (only 9 countries significantly better) (8th grade math)

9th out of 45 (only 7 countries significantly better) (8th grade science)

In 2007, U.S. improved again in TIMMS[8], although still not the top ranking country:

9th out of 47 (only 5 countries significant better) (8th grade math)

10th out of 47 (only 8 countries significantly better) (8th grade science)

Over the half century, American students performance in international math and science tests has improved from the bottom to above international average. The following figure shows the upward trend of American students’ performance in math. Because 8th grade seems to be the only group that has been tested every time since the 1960s, the graph only includes data for 8th grade math[9].


All the studies mentioned above have been coordinated by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). There is another international study, one that has gained more momentum and popularity than the ones organized by IEA. This is the Programme for International Student Assessment, better known as PISA, organized by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). PISA was first introduced in 2000 and tests 15 year olds in math, literacy, and science. It is conducted every three years. Because PISA is fairly new, so there is not a clear trend to show whether the U.S. is doing better or worse, but it is clear that U.S. students are not among the best[10]:

PISA Reading Literacy

15th out of 30 countries in 2000

17th out of 77 countries in 2009


24th out of 29 countries in 2003

31st out of 74 countries in 2009

PISA Sciences

21st out of 30 countries in 2003

23rd out of 74 countries in 2009

There are other studies and statistics, but this long list should be sufficient to prove that American students have been awful test takers for over half a century. Some has taken this mean American education has been awful in comparison to others. This interpretation has been common and backed up by media reports, scholarly books, and documentary films, for example:

1950s-1960s: Worse than the Soviet Union (1958, Life Magazine cover story Crisis in Education)[11]

1980s-1990s: Worse than Japan and others (A Nation at Risk[12], Learning Gap: Why Our Schools Are Failing And What We Can Learn From Japanese And Chinese Education[13])

2000s–: Worse than China and India (2 Million Minutes[14] (documentary film) Surpassing Shanghai)[15]

The Numbers Don’t Lie, but What Truth Do They Tell

Numbers can be used to tell stories of the past or the future. We can ask how we arrived at a certain number or what it means for the future. Asking about its past invites us to consider what we did or did not do to achieve a certain state indicated by the number. Asking about its future implications forces us to question if a certain number is desirable or meaningful. The latter must precede the former because unless the state measured by certain numbers has truly significant implications for a desirable future, the question about how we got there is practically a waste of time.

In the case of statistics from international educational assessments, the question about the future has rarely been explored. It has been assumed that these numbers indicate nations’ capacity to build a better future. And thus we must dive in urgently to learn about why others are getting better numbers than us. This assumption, however, may be wrong.

The Numbers’ Future

“Our future depends on the strength of our education system. But that system is crumbling,” reads a full-page ad in the New York Times. Dominating the ad is a graphic that shows “national security,” “jobs,” and the “economy” resting upon a cracking base of education. This ad is part of the “innovative, multitactical” Don’t Forget Ed campaign the College Board sponsored.

It is apparent America’s national security, jobs, and economy has been resting upon a base that has been crumbling and cracking for over half a century, according to the numbers. So one would logically expect the U.S. to have fallen through the cracks and hit rock bottom in national security, jobs, and economy by now. But facts seem to suggest otherwise:

The Soviet Union, America’s archrival in national security during the Cold War, which supposedly had better education than the U.S., disappeared and the U.S. remains the dominant military power in the world.

Japan, which was expected to take over the U.S. because of its superior education in the 1980s, has lost its #2 status in terms of size of economy. Its GDP is about 1/3 of America’s. Its per capita GDP is about $10,000 less than that in the U.S.

The U.S. is the 6th wealthiest country in the world in 2011 in terms of per capita GDP[16]. It is still the largest economy in the world.

The U.S. ranked 5th out of 142 countries in Global Competitiveness in 2012 and 4th in 2011[17].

The U.S. ranked 2nd out 82 countries in Global Creativity, behind only Sweden[18] in 2011.

The U.S. ranked 1st in the number of patents filled or granted by major international patent offices in 2008, with 14,399 filings, compared to 473 filings from China[19], which supposedly has a superior education[20].

Obviously America’s poor education told by the numbers has not ruined its national security and economy. These numbers have failed to tell the story of the future.

The Numbers’ Past

The past stories of numbers lie the lessons to be learned. The problem is that there are different ways to achieve the same number, although a set of factors have been identified to explain why American students perform worse than other countries or what made some other countries achieve better numbers. As a result, the most of the factors become debatable and debated myths, half-truths, or “duh!”

Time. American students spend less time studying. President Obama noted that on average U.S. students attend class about a month less than children in other advanced countries[21] in 2010. His Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said students in China and India attend school 25 to 30 percent longer than in the U.S.[22] A 1994 report of the National Education Commission on Time and Learning established by U.S. Congress observed “Students in other post-industrial democracies receive twice as much instruction in core academic areas during high school.”[23] However a study by the Center for Public Education says “students in China and India are not required to spend more time in school than most U.S. students.”[24]

Engagement and Commitment. American students, schools, parents, and governments don’t take school-based learning as seriously as other top performing countries. Not only students in other countries spend more time in school, “the formidable learning advantage Japanese and German schools provide to their students is complemented by equally impressive out-of-school learning,” noted the National Education Commission on Time and Learning in 1994[25]. “Compared with other societies, young people in Shanghai may be much more immersed in learning in the broadest sense of the term. The logical conclusion is that they learn more…” writes an OECD report explaining Shanghai’s outstanding PISA scores[26]. But the same report immediately notes “what they learn and how they learn are subjects of constant debate.”

Curriculum, Standards, Gateways, and Tests. The U.S. does not have a better (more focus, rigor, and coherence) common curriculum with high standards across the nation and an instructional system with clearly marked transition points. “…standards in the best-performing nations share the following three characteristics [focus, rigor, and coherence] that are not commonly found in U.S. standards,” says a report that calls for international benchmarking by the National Governors’ Association[27].  “Virtually all high-performing countries have a system of gateways marking the key transition points…At each of these major gateways, there is some form of external national assessment,” writes Marc Tucker in Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems (Tucker, 2011, p. 174). But Ontario, a top PISA performer does not, admits Tucker and schools in Finland, a much admired high performer on the PISA, “is a “standardized testing-free zone,”[28] writes Diane Ravitch.

Teachers and Teacher Education. American teachers are not as smart to begin with and are less well prepared than their counterparts in high performing countries. For example, while 100% of teachers in top performing countries –Singapore, Finland and South Korea — are recruited form the top third college graduates, only 23% are from the top third in the U.S., according to a study by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co[29].  Teachers in these top performing countries are also better trained, supported, and motivated before, during, and after taking the teaching job. This is one of the “duhs.”

Inequity and poverty. There is more social economic disparity among U.S. students and higher levels of poverty in the U.S. than other countries. “U.S. students in schools with 10% or less poverty are number one country in the world,” says a report of the National Association of Secondary School Principals[30]. The report establishes a direct connection between PISA performance and poverty and says the U.S. has the largest number of students living in poverty. But others disagree. “The U.S. looks about average compared with other wealthy nations on most measures of family background,” says the report from the National Governor’s Association, “Moreover, America’s most affluent15-year-olds ranked only 23rd in math and 17th in science on the 2006 PISA assessment when compared with affluent students in other industrialized nations.”[31]

There are of course other suggestions from access to natural resources[32] to cultural homogeneity and from sampling bias to parenting styles. Regardless, how each country achieved their international scores is not nearly as straightforward as the numbers themselves, making international learning a very difficult task.

The task becomes perhaps even more difficult, when the issues of economic, cultural, societal, and political contexts are considered. What’s more, learning from others may become not so desirable for the U.S. considering the fact that the test scores have not significantly affected America’s national security and economy. Moreover in the final analysis, since countries that have shown better numbers in tests have not performed necessarily better than the U.S., the U.S. education may have something to offer others.

The Numbers Don’t Lie, but Some Are Missing: Two Paradigms of Education

The fact the U.S. as a nation is still standing despite of its abysmal standing on international academic tests for over half a century begs two questions:

Is education as important to a nation’s national security and economy as important as believed?

If it is, are the numbers telling the truth about the quality of education in the U.S. and other nations?

If the answer to the first question is “no,” we need to disconnect the automatic association between test scores and education. In other words, the numbers don’t really measure education, at least not the entire picture of the education needed to produce citizens to build strong and prosperous economies.

In my latest book World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students[33], I identified two paradigms of education: employee-oriented and entrepreneur-oriented.  The employee-oriented paradigm aims to transmit a prescribed set of content (the curriculum and standards) deemed to be useful for future life by external authorities, while the entrepreneur-oriented aims to cultivate individual talents and enhance individual strengths. The employee-oriented paradigm produces homogenous, compliant, and standardized workers for mass employment while the entrepreneurial-oriented education encourages individuality, diversity, and creativity.

Although in general, all mainstream education systems in the world currently follows the employee-oriented paradigm, some may not be as effectively and successfully as others. The international test scores may be an indicator of how successful and effective the employee-oriented education has been executed. In other words, these numbers are measures of how successful the prescribed content has been transmitted to all students. But the prescribed content does not have much to do with an already industrialized country such as the U.S., whose economy relies on innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship. As a result, although American schools have not been as effective and successful in transmitting knowledge as the test scores indicate, they have somehow produced more creative entrepreneurs, who have kept the country’s economy going. Moreover, it is possible that on the way to produce those high test scores, other education systems may have discouraged the cultivation of the creative and entrepreneurial spirit and capacity.

Unfortunately there are few numbers that directly provide the same kind of comparison as TIMSS and PISA on measures of creativity and entrepreneurship, making it difficult to forcefully prove that American education indeed produce more creative and entrepreneurial talents. A piece of data I have found from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor study suggests a significant negative relationship between PISA performance and indicators of entrepreneurship. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, or GEM, is an annual assessment of entrepreneurial activities, aspirations, and attitudes of individuals in more than 50 countries. Initiated in 1999, about the same time that PISA began, GEM has become the world’s largest entrepreneurship study. Thirty-nine countries that participated in the 2011 GEM also participated in the 2009 PISA, and 23 out of the 54 countries in GEM are considered “innovation-driven” economies, which means developed countries.

Comparing the two sets of data shows clearly countries that score high on PISA do not have levels of entrepreneurship that match their stellar scores. More importantly, it seems that countries with higher PISA scores have fewer people confident in their entrepreneurial capabilities. Out of the innovation-driven economies, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan are among the best PISA performers, but their scores on the measure of perceived capabilities or confidence in one’s ability to start a new business are the lowest. The correlation coefficients between scores on the 2009 PISA in math, reading, and science and 2011 GEM in “perceived entrepreneurial capability” in the 23 developed countries are all statistically significant[34].

Anecdotally, Vivek Wadhwa, president of Academics and Innovation at Singularity University, Fellow at Stanford Law School and Director of Research at Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, wrote in Business Week in response to the latest PISA rankings:

The independence and social skills American children develop give them a huge advantage when they join the workforce. They learn to experiment, challenge norms, and take risks. They can think for themselves, and they can innovate. This is why America remains the world leader in innovation; why Chinese and Indians invest their life savings to send their children to expensive U.S. schools when they can. India and China are changing, and as the next generations of students become like American ones, they too are beginning to innovate. So far, their education systems have held them back.[35]

But there again are no numbers to prove these. However, other countries, particularly the high scoring Asian countries have all been reforming their education systems to be more like that in the U.S., as I have discussed in my book Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization[36].


I have put forth a lot of numbers of different sorts from a variety of sources. Taken together, these numbers suggest to me the following:

So far all international test scores measure the extent to which an education system effectively transmits prescribed content.

In this regard, the U.S. education system is a failure and has been one for a long time.

But the successful transmission of prescribed content contributes little to economies that require creative and entrepreneurial individual talents and in fact can damage the creative and entrepreneurial spirit. Thus high test scores of a nation can come at the cost of entrepreneurial and creative capacity.

While the U.S. has failed to produce homogenous, compliant, and standardized employees, it has preserved a certain level of creativity and entrepreneurship. In other words, while the U.S. is still pursuing an employee-oriented education model, it is much less successful in stifling creativity and suppressing entrepreneurship.

The U.S. success in creativity and entrepreneurship is merely an accidental by product of a less successful employee-oriented education, which is far from sufficient to meet the coming challenges brought about by globalization and technological changes. Thus in a sense, the U.S. education is in turmoil, inadequate, and obsolete, but it has to move toward more entrepreneur-oriented instead of more employee-oriented.




[4] Data source: U.S. National Center for Educational Statistics:

[5] Data source: U.S. National Center for Educational Statistics:

[6] Data source: U.S. National Center for Educational Statistics:

[7] Data source: U.S. National Center for Educational Statistics:


[9] Since SIMS scores were reported in sub domains, I chose the lowest performance area for the U.S. students: Measurement.

[10] Data source:






[16] Data source: International Monetary Fund:


[18] Data source:

[19] Data Source: Chinese Innovation is a Paper Tiger

[20] Students from Shanghai China scored 1st on the PISA in all three subjects (math, reading, and sciences) in the last round of PISA released in 2010.

















This is a repost from the blog of Dr. Yong Zhao.

The Futurist Magazine offers a look into 2013 and beyond

Each year since 1985, the editors of THE FUTURIST have selected the most thought-provoking ideas and forecasts appearing in the magazine to go into our annual Outlook report. Over the years, Outlook has spotlighted the emergence of such epochal developments as the Internet, virtual reality, the 2008 financial crisis and the end of the Cold War. But these forecasts are meant as conversation starters, not absolute predictions about the future. We hope that this report–covering developments in business and economics, demography, energy, the environment, health and medicine, resources, society and values, and technology–inspires you to tackle the challenges, and seize the opportunities, of the coming decade.

With no further ado, THE FUTURIST Magazine releases its top ten forecasts for 2013 and beyond.

1. Neuroscientists may soon be able to predict what you’ll do before you do it.

The intention to do something, such as grasp a cup, produces blood flow to specific areas of the brain, so studying blood-flow patterns through neuroimaging could give researchers a better idea of what people have in mind. One potential application is improved prosthetic devices that respond to signals from the brain more like actual limbs do, according to researchers at the University of Western Ontario. World Trends & Forecasts, Jan-Feb 2012,p. 10


2. Future cars will become producers of power rather than merely consumers.

A scheme envisioned at the Technology University of Delft would use fuel cells of parked electric vehicles to convert biogas or hydrogen into more electricity. And the owners would be paid for the energy their vehicles produce. Tomorrow in Brief, Mar-Apr 2012,p. 2


3. An aquaponic recycling system in every kitchen?

Future “farmers” may consist of householders recycling their food waste in their own aquariums. An aquaponic system being developed by SUNY ecological engineers would use leftover foods to feed a tank of tilapia or other fish, and then the fish waste would be used for growing vegetables. The goal is to reduce food waste and lower the cost of raising fish. Tomorrow in Brief, Nov-Dec 2011,p. 2


4. The economy may become increasingly jobless, but there will be plenty of Work

Many recently lost jobs may never come back. Rather than worry about unemployment, however, tomorrow’s workers will focus on developing a variety of skills that could keep them working productively and continuously, whether they have jobs or not. It’ll be about finding out what other people need done, and doing it, suggests financial advisor James H. Lee. “Hard at Work in the Jobless Future,” Mar-Apr 2012,pp. 32-33


5. The next space age will launch after 2020, driven by competition and “adventure capitalists.”

While the U.S. space shuttle program is put to rest, entrepreneurs like Paul Allen, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos are planning commercial launches to access low-Earth orbit and to ferry passengers to transcontinental destinations within hours. Challenges include perfecting new technologies, developing global operations, building new infrastructure, and gaining regulatory approval. “The New Age of Space Business,” Sep-Oct 2012,p. 17



6. The “cloud” will become more intelligent, not just a place to store data.

Cloud intelligence will evolve into becoming an active resource in our daily lives, providing analysis and contextual advice. Virtual agents could, for example, design your family’s weekly menu based on everyone’s health profiles, fitness goals, and taste preferences, predict futurist consultants Chris Carbone and Kristin Nauth. “From Smart House to Networked Home,” July-Aug 2012,p. 30


7. Corporate reputations will be even more important to maintain, due to the transparency that will come with augmented reality.

In a “Rateocracy” as envisioned by management consultant Robert Moran, organizations’ reputations are quantified, and data could be included in geographically based information systems. You might choose one restaurant over another when your mobile augmented-reality app flashes warnings about health-department citations or poor customer reviews. “‘Rateocracy’ and Corporate Reputation,” World Trends & Forecasts, May-June 2012,p. 12


8. Robots will become gentler caregivers in the next 10 years.

Lifting and transferring frail patients may be easier for robots than for human caregivers, but their strong arms typically lack sensitivity. Japanese researchers are improving the functionality of the RIBA II (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance), lining its arms and chest with sensors so it can lift its patients more gently. Tomorrow in Brief, Nov-Dec 2011,p. 2


9. We’ll harness noise vibrations and other “junk” energy from the environment to power our gadgets.

Researchers at Georgia Tech are developing techniques for converting ambient microwave energy into DC power, which could be used for small devices like wireless sensors. And University of Buffalo physicist Surajit Sen is studying ways to use vibrations produced on roads and airport runways as energy sources. World Trends & Forecasts, Nov-Dec 2011,p. 9


10. A handheld “breathalyzer” will offer early detection of infections microbes and even chemical attacks.

The Single Breath Disease Diagnostics Breathalyzer under development at Stony Brook University would use sensor chips coated with nanowires to detect chemical compounds that may indicate the presence of diseases or infectious microbes. In the future, a handheld device could let you detect a range of risks, from lung cancer to anthrax exposure. Tomorrow in Brief, Sep-Oct 2012,p. 2


All of these forecasts plus dozens more were included in Outlook 2013, which scanned the best writing and research from THE FUTURIST magazine over the course of the previous year.

Now, here’s something even cooler. THE FUTURIST has made public the contents from Outlook 2006 through 2012, more than 400 forecasts in all relating to 2013 and beyond:

Happy futuring

Dec 2012



What’s the difference between PBL and Design Thinking | Great Post by Ewan McIntosh

Bianca Hewes and some others were last night asking some good questions to seek out the difference between design thinking and project-based learning (PBL) as techniques for use in the classroom. These kinds of questions we explore through out workshops with educators around the world, and there’s an explanation developing in a book I hope to release soon. In the meantime, here’s a quick and dirty take on the question from me:

For much of the past three years my colleagues and I been working through a specific innovation process with educators on the one hand, and non-education organisations on the other: media groups, technology startups, fashion companies, the UN, political parties… The process is design thinking.

When we work with creative, government or political organisations, the approach is a logical extension of what they’re doing, a welcome structure through which to explore a wider scope of a given challenge.

When we work with schools, we’re taking the Design Thinking process and marrying it with what we know from research about what makes great learning. However, there’s a piece of vocabulary that often gets in the teachers’ way of seeing what design thinking might bring to the learning process: PBL, or project-based learning. “It’s just PBL”; “This is the same as CBL”: the understanding of a model which is close, but not quite the same to design thinking, makes it harder to spot the differences and additional elements that could help enrichen practice.

So what are the key differences between a PBL project and one where design thinking is mashed with what we know makes learning great? (N.B. Following some criticism on Twitter, I feel it is worth pointing out that these reflections are just that, reflections on practice I’ve either observed first hand or have researched online. Don’t get mad: comment and take part in the discussion).

0. Important point: there’s probably less of a #PBL vs Design Thinking distinction to make, but rather, how can design thinking add to existing well-kent pedagogies of PBL?

1. A PBL project tends to explore a relatively narrow subject area, with a narrow essential question
In many, if not most PBL, projects I’ve seen, the project is defined by the essential question(s), which often sound like curricular checkpoints, or which funnel learning down a particular pre-defined path. In many, the groupings of students and their activities are defined (the film crew, the researchers, the presentation-makers, the event organisers).

In Design Thinking, the goal is to explore the widest possible area(s) for longer, to offer a good half-dozen or more potential lines of enquiry that students might end up exploring. The essential question(s) come much later in the process (as much as half-way through, in the synthesis stage) and…

2. In Design Thinking, the students, not the teacher, write the essential question(s)
In PBL, the teacher does a lot of the learning for the student: taking a large potential area of study and narrowing it down into a manageable project question. The teacher often delivers a “brief” for learners through two or three essential questions, much in the same way as a client delivers a brief to a design firm.

In Design Thinking, the teacher avoids asking a question at all, and comes up with what we call a generative topic (from David Perkins‘ work), a curiosity-mongering statement that opens up an area of study, doesn’t narrow it down. The questions that come from this investigation are the ones that students will go on to look at in more detail, come with ideas around solving or presenting.

Design firms like IDEO and our own web designers at NoTosh often take a brief from a client and then through their research, they change it. However, in learning, the use of a generative topic from the start speeds up the process, and teaches this skill of “helpful disobedience” of the brief. There’s little difference, in fact, between a traditional project-based learning experience and a deep design thinking experience if the educator is giving a brief: design thinking merely adds some structure to PBL, a new vocabulary, and, it seems from every workshop I spot online, lots of LEGOs, pipe cleaners and post-its. There is more to Design Thinking for learning than this utilitarian service-improvement model that’s currently getting big airtime!

A large part of our work with educators is working on how to develop higher order questioning skills in students. So many Design Thinking projects we observe elsewhere at the moment are based around relatively lower order questions, or on just school/community improvement. Design Thinking can be so much more than this, but it takes the marriage between Design Thinking as a creative industries process and the best educational research we can find. It’s hard to find people teaching Shakespeare, religious studies or mathematics through the process, the very things we’re seeing educators through our work begin to achieve. Core to raising that ambition is raising the quality of questioning in both teachers and students, something that remains untouched in most schools.

3. The ideas of what students will produce in PBL are often set by the teacher.
In Design Thinking students make the choice about what their prototype will be. Prototype or product ideas for learning are often set in advance in a PBL project (“you will produce a film”, or “you will be able to use multimedia and text”).

In Design Thinking the decision about which medium to use to show an idea lies entirely with the students, and again comes later in the process, when they know more about the initial exploratory topic.

4. Design Thinking provides a set of vocabulary that increasingly makes sense to employers in the creative, financial and governmental and innovation sectors.
The biggest challenge with PBL is that it was invented for education by educators. Design Thinking was created 30 years ago by a product design outfit (IDEO) as a way of working and thinking, to help provide better solutions to clients. The process helped bring about the graphical interface and computer mouse. It’s now coming into the language of many large firms as they seek a more structured way to innovate.

The language PBL uses is, by contrast, inconsistent and not usable outside the classroom. So, using a process that encourage deeper, wider thinking AND helps develop a life skill provides great value to learners.

5. And what about Understanding by Design..?
When we first came across Understanding by Design, or UbD, it felt, in the words of those harnessing it, very similar to their first impressions of design thinking. However, there’s a key difference. UbD involves the educator deciding on a final view of success and working back from that, designing learning towards the final goal. Design Thinking does it the other way around.

UbD almost tries to give students the impression they have choice, responsibility for their learning, real things to create in order to learn, but in fact, it fails to respect the choices learners make, as tangents are a) less likely to appear (the immersion phease of research at the beginning is narrower by design) and b) less likely to be given time and resource by the teacher when they do appear (such tangents are off the goal that the teacher has already set in mind).

Although controversial to say, I feel that UbD and many project-based learning approaches do nothing but disempower the learner, or at least not empower them any more than traditional coursework and chalk-and-talk. It’s maybe less the approach that is wrong (since depth and higher order thinking is a staple of most guides to project-based learning) but the practice that ends up occurring as people find themselves pushed back into the status quo of assessment accountability and content coverage fear from their superiors. As a result, many design thinking projects we see are too narrowly designed around school or community improvement, something Emillio Reggio and Montessori schools have been doing (better?) for scores of years. Why are we not seeing PBL or Design Thinking taking place across whole school curricula, from Shakespeare to science, school canteens to Cantonese?

It’s time people look more seriously towards the amazing work done by educators in Europe and Australia, where design thinking is truly stretching the scope within which learners operate. There. I said it! 🙂 And I promise that over the next six months we’ll share even more of those amazing learning stories.

This is a brief outline of five key differences between the two approaches. As I wrote above, there is a new book coming out soon from me outlining the amazing work done by our Design Thinking Schools and creative clients around the world. This will provide the depth that some folk might want after this briefest of explanations. We also run intensive workshops for educators and creative firms, wherever you are in the world, that help enthuse staff and set them out on the journey towards more student-led learning. If you’re interested in one of those, just get in touch.

August 16, 2012


“My results…” Care less about what everyone says

In England and Wales today, and in Scotland last week, youngsters have been receiving their examination results. All those months of hard work, well, work in any case, pay off in about the 10 seconds it takes to open an envelope and take a glance over the final scores. Some people even choose to do it in front of the TV cameras – you’d have never found me wanting to do that!

At that point in time, the effort, the learning that went on, and the lessons to carry on into later life all disappear into distant memory. It might as well not have happened.

But a tweet this morning from London’s friendliest entrepreneur Oli Barrett sent me seeking out the pre-envelope-opening tweets, all those people talking about “my results” on Twitter. The search string has been fascinating, particularly in the early morning.

USA Fairs poorly AGAIN in NAEP | Jeff Piontek wants to know your thought as to why.

In 2011, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tested 122,000 eighth grade students in their knowledge of science according to the 2011 NAEP Science Framework. Students are tested in their knowledge of science and their ability to work problems in three science areas: physical science, life science, and the Earth and space sciences. The test covered 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense schools. Students’ test scores placed them in one of four categories: Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, and Advanced. The terms Basic, Proficient, and Advanced are defined as:

  • Basic denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade.
  • Proficient represents solid academic performance. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter.
  • Advanced represents superior performance.

While the national report card for eighth graders does show improvement, the results of the sample suggests that the nation as a whole has more students in the Below Basic category than any other:

  • Below Basic        36%
  • Basic                      34%
  • Proficient            29%
  • Advanced              2%

The achievement-level results in the eighth-grade NAEP science scores for the years 2009 and 2011 are:

  • At or above Basic went from 63% to 65%
  • At or above Proficient went from 30% to 32%
  • The number of students in Advanced stayed the same each year.

Here are some sample questions by science content area and difficulty level for grade eight students:


Physical Science

  • Describe the energy transfer between two systems
  • Read a motion graph

Earth and Space Sciences

  • Draw a conclusion based on fossil evidence
  • Predict a geological consequence of tectonic plate movement
  • Identify the mechanisms of a weather pattern

Life Science

  • Recognize a factor that affects the success of a species
  • Predict the effect of an environmental change on an organism
  • Explain an experimental setup to study populations of organisms
  • Recognize how plants use sunlight

Physical Science

  • Identify an example of kinetic energy


Earth and Space Sciences

  • Explain the effects of human land use on wildlife
  • Predict a lunar phenomenon
  • Relate characteristics of air masses to global regions
  • Identify a source of energy for the Earth’s water cycle
  • Predict the long-term pattern in the volcanic activity of a region
  • Investigate the magnetic properties of some common objects

Physical Sciences

  • Select and explain the useful properties of a material used in an industrial process
  • Identify the atomic components of the molecule
  • Determine a controlled variable in a chemistry investigation
  • Recognize an effect of electrical forces

Life Sciences

  • Identify the main sources of energy for certain organisms
  • Select and explain graph types and draw graphs from data that compare insect behaviors
  • recognize that plants produce their own food
  • Describe the competition between two species
  • Identify a function of a human organ system


Earth and Space Sciences

  • Predict and explain a weather pattern due to collision of air masses
  • Explain the formation of a rock based on its features
  • Draw a conclusion about soil permeability using data

Physical Science

  • Describe the evidence for chemical change
  • Identify chemically similar elements on the Periodic Table
  • Explain a change in energy due to friction

Life Sciences

  • Select and explain graph types and draw graphs from data that compare insect behaviors
  • Form a conclusion based on data about the behavior of an organism

The Impact of One-to-One

After nearly a decade of state- and district-wide implementations of one-to-one computing, researchers at North Carolina State University report on results from seven major initiatives.

Throughout the country, schools, districts and states are utilizing one-to-one computing initiatives as a vehicle for improving education. These initiatives involve placing a personal digital wireless device in the hands of every student and teacher in order to meet such goals as: equity of technology access, increased student engagement, improved student achievement, development of 21st century skills, and increased opportunities for students with special needs. In a recent white paper, Laptop Initiatives: Summary of Research Across Six States, North Carolina State University’s Friday Institute for Educational Innovation takes a close look at how well such goals are being met.
The white paper examines six statewide 1:1 initiatives plus one comprehensive district-level initiative. The initiatives are:
  • Florida’s Leveraging Laptops: The purpose of the Florida program was to develop “effective models for enhancing student achievement through the integration of the laptop computer as a tool for teaching and learning.” During the 2006-7 school year Leveraging Laptops served 47 K-12 schools (15 elementary, 13 middle, and 11 high) in 11 districts and reached 440 teachers and about 20,000 students. The program continued in 2008-9 with 73 K-12 schools and a focus on integrating innovative learning tools and project-based learning activities.
  • Maine’s Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI): MLTI, which launched in 2002, provides computers to all seventh and eighth grade students in the state. The program expanded in 2009 to include high schools, although the hardware for the high school students is funded by the schools, not the state. As of January 2010, MLTI served 100% of the public middle schools in the state, 55% of the public high schools and one private high school.
  • Michigan’s Freedom to Learn (FTL): FTL was started in 195 Michigan schools in the school year 2005-6. The goal of the program was to improve student learning and awareness of 21st century skills. The initiative took place in elementary, middle, and high schools. A total of 30,000 laptops were distributed to students and teachers.
  • North Carolina’s 1:1 Learning Technology Initiative (NCLTI): NCLTI, which started in 2008, was the result of a collaboration between the NC State Board of Education, NC Department of public Instruction, and Golden LEAF Foundation, with support from the SAS Institute. It included eight Early College (EC) high schools and ten traditional high schools, with approximately 9,5000 students in total, and had the overall goal of using technology to improve teaching, student achievement, and prepare students for work, citizenship, and the 21st century.
  • Pennsylvania’s Classrooms for the Future (CFF): The CFF initiative was implemented during the 2006-7 school year. The purpose was to prepare the high schools of Pennsylvania for the 21st century and to improve teaching and learning. By the end of the 2009-10 school year, the initiative had impacted 12,000 teachers and 500,000 students.
  • Texas’s Immersion Pilot (TIP): TIP was initiated in 2003 by the Texas Legislature to “immerse schools in technology by providing tools, training and support for teachers to fully integrate technology into their classrooms.” 23 school districts participated. One major goal was to increase student achievement through technology immersion. As of 2008, the pilot had reached approximately 14,399 students and 755 teachers in 29 schools.
  • Henrico County Virginia’s Teaching and Learning Initiative: The only county-wide initiative included in the white paper, Henrico’s program is the largest of its kind in the nation. The program began in 2001 and had two main goals: to improve students’ 21st century skills and to reduce the digital divide. Since 2001 the district has distributed 24,000 laptops to students, grades 6 – 12, and 3,300 laptops to teachers and administrators.
Data for the white paper was drawn from the research that was conducted by each of the initiatives. The methods used varied quite a bit from one program to another. For example, Florida made extensive use of teacher observation tools to evaluate progress and the Texas TIP researchers analyzed the level of implementation at each participating school (from those that were making relatively little use of the technology to the high-implementation sites that could more accurately be described as one-to-one).
Overall, however, the authors of Laptop Initiatives: Summary of Research Across Six States found some interesting patterns and consistencies across the board. Below are some of the key findings from the report, grouped into three categories: student outcomes; changes to instructional practice; and planning and implementation.
Teachers and students generally agree that laptops increase student engagement. For example:
  • Michigan: Students reported that laptops made it easier to do school work and increased their interest in learning
  • Maine: Researchers found that students were more engaged and more actively involved in their own learning; this was especially true of students with special needs and those who were at-risk or low-achieving.
  • Florida: Observers found significant increases in attention and engagement. Teachers’ action research results documented an increase in conditions that support learning.
  • Texas: Teachers reported that immersion increased student engagement
  • North Carolina: Teachers felt that technology enhanced student engagement, but also could create a distraction during class.
Teachers and students in some states concur that laptops increase student motivation, but results are mixed.
  • Maine: Teachers reported that students, and especially students with disabilities, were more motivated to learn and more interested in school.
  • Michigan: Teachers reported that laptops increased student motivation.
  • Texas: Students in the lower-implementing middle schools (those that did 1:1 less completely) were glad that they would not have the laptops in high school.
  • Henrico County: Teachers at the end of the third year felt that the laptops had not made a difference in students’ desire to learn or their interest in classes.
Students and teachers in some of the states thought that the use of laptops had a positive impact on student achievement, although this was not always supported by the test scores.
  • Maine: Teachers believed that the laptops improved student achievement in general and especially for students with disabilities. Students at the demonstration schools scored significantly higher in science, math, and social studies than did students at the comparison schools.
  • Michigan: Teachers reported that laptops increased student learning
  • Florida: Teachers’ action research results documented changes in student achievement (as measured by test scores, higher-level thinking skills, retention, and transfer of learning).
  • Texas: Teachers and students in higher-implementing schools believed that immersion improved the quality of students’ products and narrowed the equity gap, while teachers and students in lower-implementing schools believed that the laptops (which were used only occasionally) had a minimal or negative effect on test scores.
21st Century Skills (including technology skills, innovation, communication and collaboration)
  • Michigan: Students reported that laptops improved their Internet research skills. These students demonstrated significantly greater Internet and presentation software ability than matched-control students. They also felt that they used higher-order thinking skills to solve problems and challenges
  • Florida: Students in the program developed their abilities as producers of digital content, showed signs of developing innovation and critical thinking skills, and developed other workforce skills as a result of the initiative. Researchers observed significant increases in cooperative and collaborative learning and significant decreases in independent seatwork.
  • Texas: Students in the higher-implementation schools thought that immersion improved their technology skills, and teachers believed that immersion narrowed the technology equity gap.
  • North Carolina: Students reported that they used their technology to analyze information, create new information and submit assignments.
  • Maine: Teachers reported that laptops helped Maine students with disabilities interact more with other students and with teachers.
Self-directed learning
Students not only were participating more in group work but also were engaging in self-directed learning.
  • Henrico: Teachers believed that the laptops enhanced the learning experiences of students with different learning styles.
  • Maine: Teachers believed that laptops increased opportunities for individualized learning.
  • Pennsylvania: Students were more likely to choose and complete projects based on their interests, and their teachers were more likely to allow them to choose whether they worked independently or in groups.
Technology use for Instruction and the Changes in Pedagogy that Result:
Teachers in the initiatives used the technology in a number of ways and reported a positive impact on classroom instruction, and teacher readiness to integrate technology
  • Maine: Teachers used their laptops to plan instruction, create integrated lessons, present lessons, and create student assignments. The students used technology to complete assignments, create projects, and communicate with teachers and peers. Benefits perceived by teachers included increase in their own technology skills and classroom management benefits as a result of allowing tech-savvy students to help with technology support.
  • North Carolina: Students increasingly used their laptops to present information.
  • Texas: In higher implementing schools teachers and students used their laptops for increasingly more sophisticated tasks.
  • Michigan: Teachers were confident that they could integrate technology with their curriculum.
Teacher and student roles
Researchers noticed that the roles of teacher and students shift during the implementation of a 1:1 program.
  • Michigan: Teachers noticed that, with the laptops, their classroom practice increased student-centered activities.
  • Maine: Teachers and students noticed that with laptops in the classroom, students became teachers and teachers became learners.
It is generally acknowledged that effective leadership is crucial to the success of a 1:1 program.
  • Texas: In the higher-implementing schools the administrators were supportive of the program from the start and became more supportive over time, while in the lower-implementing schools support was marginal at first and became weaker as time went on.
  • Henrico: Administrators used their laptops for management and communication just as the teachers and students were doing.
  • North Carolina: Evaluators recommended that administrators could be supportive by facilitating professional development, setting reasonable 1:1 goals, modeling technology use, and communicating the vision of the program.
Professional development
Professional development is another important factor for the success of a 1:1 program.
  • Texas: The researchers found that, “Higher-implementing schools developed and maintained close relationships with professional development providers. These schools also gave professional development high priority by building in training days, basic training on teachers’ evolving needs, and holding teaches accountable for implementing what they had learned.”
  • Maine: Some teachers cited lack of time and insufficient opportunities for professional development as obstacles to the integration of laptops with the curriculum.
  • Pennsylvania: Teachers felt that the necessity of ongoing professional development got in the way of the program getting established.
  • North Carolina: Teachers agreed with the need for additional professional development and also wanted more opportunities to collaborate and share ideas with fellow teachers.
Robust infrastructure – including the opportunity to access the Internet is also important to one-to-one success.
  • Texas: Higher-implementing schools had good infrastructure before the 1:1 program. Lower-implementing schools had less than optimal infrastructure, which presented challenges for technicians.
  • North Carolina: One of the problems that teachers encountered was insufficient Internet access. They also relied heavily on technicians to assist them with smoothly integrating the technology.
  • Maine: Teachers identified lack of technical support as one of their main problems.
In general, the process of bringing 1:1 initiatives into the seven states and 1 county led to positive responses, ranging from improved student achievement to shifts in the way in which classrooms are run. Eight recommendations grew out of the 1:1 initiative research:
  • Develop a thorough implementation plan and train teachers before distributing digital devices;
  • Ascertain that the school or district has the appropriate technology and leadership infrastructure to run the program;
  • Secure strong buy-in from all stakeholders, including district and school leadership, teachers, students, parents, and the community;
  • Construct a leadership team with an eye toward members who will commit long-term to the initiative and support it;
  • Provide continuous professional development that is aligned with teacher needs;
  • Ensure continuous availability of efficient technical and instructional support personnel;
  • Enact polices for the appropriate use of digital devices and resources; and
  • Use data from project evaluations to inform and improve future program decisions.

Great Interview with Ray Kurzweil…..when computers and humans merge

I found this to be a great interview with one of the people I admire. He pushes the envelope on technology, human behavior and evolution. Click on the title to see interview with Ray Kurzweil.


by Jeff Piontek


Then you have the other side of the idea, where corporations are controlling the afterlife and a transitional state….funny