BYOT Implementations are Literacy Projects

Are these your literacy standards?

From an educator’s perspective there are a few places that we can turn for a concrete look at the standards.  The best resources for modern literacy standards are the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). Let’s start with NCTE.  The Definition of 21st Century Literacies listed below was adopted by NCTE in 2008. While you look at the list below,  think about how many educators in your community are comfortable in these areas.

  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
  • Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

As educators, we need to be able to start to list concrete examples of how we meet each of these standards and then assist our students in doing the same.

What about the ISTE standards?

Like NCTE, ISTE also provides us clear standards to help schools better prepare students in the digital age. Unfortunately, the vast majority of educators look at the ISTE standards as technology standards when in reality they are learning standards. As the introduction to the standards states on the ISTE website, “Technology has forever changed not only what we need to learn, but the way we learn.”

Like the NCTE standards, ISTE’s contain six focal points:

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts

As with the NCTE standards, I question how many of these our staff members are comfortable with at this point.

Is this even on our radar?

So as we look towards the new things on the agenda for schools throughout our country like common core implementation and new teacher evaluation methods, I am worried that the integration of technology is still looked upon as a detached task that will have to be kept on the back burner.  The reality of the situation, however, is that if we understand how to utilize the vast array of collaborative resources out there that we can accomplish our tasks more effectively. But we cannot even start down this road if we do not provide access.

There is a great quote about technology in Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great”: “Technology alone is not going to move an organization or an individual from Good to Great. However, technology that is thoughtfully deployed can help us move a bit faster. ”

In closing, I have to mention the seven survival skills that Tony  Wagner discusses in his book “The Global Achievement Gap,” skills that our students need whether they are going on to college or the workplace.

  1. Critical thinking/problem solving
  2. Collaboration/leading by influence
  3. Agility and adaptability
  4. Initiative and entrepreneurialism
  5. Effective oral and written communication
  6. Accessing and analyzing information
  7. Curiosity and imagination

We cannot get where we need to go, if we as educators do not model these skills and we cannot model these skills if we do not provide learning environments where staff and students have access to digital resources that allow them to experiment and discover the power of being a connected learner. We are at a point where we have to consider whether or not those who are learning in “disconnected” environments can be called literate by today’s standards.

So as you are thinking about whether or not a BYOT or one-to-one initiative is right for your school, you need to ask yourself the following question: Is it important that students in our school are literate?

Google Forms: how to create a quiz or a test that automatically grades itself in Google Docs

Using forms in Google docs lets anyone create forms quickly and share those forms via email, embed them into a webpage or blog. If you are a teacher, you can create formulas that allow you to have these forms graded in minutes. The formula part is a bit challenging, so I wrote this article to talk about how I recently created a final for one of my classes.

Create a new Form in Google Docs


To Create a form, go to the Create New menu and choose form. Google will open up a new window with the form. You can type in a form name and description as well as start typing your first form.


Type in your questions, help text and question types


There are different types of questions you can choose from. It’s best if you try to make a question that has each of these elements to familiarize yourself with them.


Make some quiz questions required


You can also make some questions required. For example, my first question is the student’s name. I always make this a required question to make sure the students answer it.


Choose a test quiz type


I’m going ask 5 questions of different types on this quiz. I’ll also add a section for the student’s name. Google docs will automatically create a timestampthat lets you know the date and time the students filled out the test. To add each questions, just go to the top of the screen and choose Add Item, choose the question type and start typing your questions and options. This part is pretty self-explanatory and shouldn’t take you very long.

Here’s what my test looks like when it’s done. When you’re ready to go, click on the SAVE button at the top right of the page.

Choose how viewers will take the quiz

Once you’ve finished the test, you have three options to give people access to your quiz. You can click on the Email this form at the top of the screen, then fill out a list of recipients in the box provided, you can click on More Actions, then chooseEmbed from the pop-up. You can then copy this code and put in on a webpage or a facebook page. Finally, you can click on or copy the list at the bottom of the test and send someone the URL where they can take the test online.

Take the test yourself to create a KEY of answers

In order to make the test grade itself, you’ll have to create a KEY of answers. Click on the link at the bottom of the test and fill out the test yourself. Hit submit when you’re done


Take the test a second time to create a sample perfect student


The second time you take the test, you’ll pretend to be a student, answer all of the questions correctly. This will help you check to make sure your formulas are correct when you create them. The last question is an open ended question and will have to be treated differently than the others.


Check out the test results


You can go back into Google Docs and see your form in the list of documents. Click on it and you’ll see something like the spreadsheet above, it will contain all of the entries that have been submitted. A really great feature of Google Docs is the ability to see the information in graphic form. You can see that by going to the FORM menu and choosing Show Summary of Responses.


Create Additional calculated Colums


We’ll add a few more columns to finish up. We’ll need a column for points someone would get since it’s open ended. That will allow me to give the student points if they get that question partially right. I’ll call this column Open Ended Points. Then, I’ll add another colum to calculate the Correct Points from the other questions. I’ll call that Correct Points. Finally, I’ll add a final colum for the grade. I’m also going to fill out some sample points in the open ended points colum to test my calculations.


Create the formula to calculate the correct points


this is the hard part. To calculate wether a questions was filled in correctly, I need to award a point to a student if their answer matches the answer in the key. We’ll need to use a spreadsheet if statement. The IF statement works like this IF(CELLID2=CELLID1, TRUEVALUE, FALSEVALUE). So, if the answer on the current cell matches the answer on the key, then the spreasheet will give the TRUEVALUE, otherwise it will give the falsevalue.

So, for our first question the formula would look like this: =IF(C3=$C$2,1,0). The = sign at the beginning of a formula tells the spreadsheet software that this is a special cell that needs to be calculated. Notice something peculiar about our cell references. The first cell reference C3 is a normal cell reference. The second cell reference is a bit different $C$2. This is an absolute cell reference.

The cool thing about formulas in spreadsheets is that they can be copied and pasted into other cells. When you have cell references in them, the spreadsheet application will try to make the fomulas automatically adjust to the relative position of the cells. If we had another student fill out this form and copied the formula from this cell to the one below, The spreadsheet would attempt to check to see if the answers would match not the key, but the cell right above the current cell. Since we don’t want this to happen, the second cell reference is absoute. When the formula is pasted, the answers will always be checked against the first test answers (the key).

To calculate the Correct Points, we need to add the value of each correct answer. Here’s what that formula would look like:


Here’s a couple of caveats about doing it this way. For a checkbox question, the student must click all of the correct checkboxes in order for the question to count. There is no points for partially correct answers. Also, for questions that are fill in the blank like the question about the IAB, the answer must match exactly. Some students, might have a problem remembering how to spell Bureau or make a spelling mistake. Those won’t count. Of course, you can go through this spreadsheet and when you’re going through and analyzing the Open ended questions, you can retype their answers to make sure they match and they get the points, but I would mention that they must get everything perfect or it might not count.

The formula to calculate the final grade will take all of the points from the Correct Points column and add them to the open ended points. That formula looks like this:


This formula adds up the previous two colums, then compares that to column $H$2 (the points I am awarding for open ended points in this quiz, plus the number of columns between $C$2:$F$2), which is a fancy way of calculating the total amounts of points on this quiz. Normally, this calculation woud give you a number between 0 and 1, but if we add the % at the end, it creates a percentage result which converts our normal results to a number between 0-100 %. Finally, we wrap this around a ROUND function. The round function works like this ROUND(VALUE, ROUNDTODECIMALS). By giving it a 0 value in the ROUND to decimals, we make this result round to whole numbers.


Take the test again a couple of times


To test things out a bit more, we’ll take the test a couple more times and I’ll show you how to easily and automatically get the results for the new people. To take it again, go to the FORM menu on the spreadsheet and choose GO TO LIVE FORM. If your students are taking the test, you can see their results in real time as soon as they hit the submit button.


Duplicate the formulas


Once your students are done taking the test, check their open ended questions and award them open ended points. Then, select the two calculated cells (I3 and J3 in this case) and click on the bottom right of the two cells (there will be a small blue rectangle there) and drag them down to the end of the list of students who have completed the test. Their grades will calculate automatically.

It’s always a good idea to manually verify a couple of test grades with a calculator to make sure your formulas are correct. If you want, you can try taking this test. I’ve shared it so you can view the spreadsheet as well.

I used this formulas to give my students a final exam and it worked out great. They could obviously look for the answers online so I gave them a limited time to work on the final. I had my grades done immediately after they took the test and I didn’t have to spend hours grading them.

Common Core Assessment: What do you think?

The two Common Core assessment consortia, Smarter Balanced and PARCC, have both recently released material giving us an insight into the upcoming Common Core math tests. One of the released items referenced by many articles is the 4th grade fractions question shown here:

 This is significantly different from a typical standardized test question in a number of ways:

  • There is no calculation to be done. Students have to understand the meaning of fractions as visual models.
  • A decision needs to be made about each part of the question. On a typical multiple-choice question, students only have to find one “answer”, so they’re often taught to literally discard the two most unlikely looking responses and then make a best “guess.” This strategy is now, thankfully, rendered completely useless. All four parts of this question could be yes, or all four could be no, or any other combination in between.
  • Every part of the question targets some potential misconception.
    • 1a is obviously correct, but 1b is not. Even though in both responses 2 out of 5 parts are shaded, the second diagram is not split into equal partitions.
    • In 1c, even though 6 boxes are shaded, the students need to understand that this is of visual model of an equivalent fraction to two fifths.
    • 1d requires students to clearly understand that a fraction is a means of writing a part-whole ratio rather than a part-part ratio.

This type of question presents a conceptual hurdle for many students, and the big question for schools is how are they going to ensure that they adequately prepare all students for this type of assessment? Blended learning provides a solution.

Dreambox Learning, the only truly adaptive educational program used in Blended Learning models across the county, includes games that would specifically help students be successful on this released item, but also build their overall conceptual understanding of fractions. The program utilizes all current research on mathematical concepts as other programs do but the differentiator for Dreambox is they use over 50,000 pieces of individualized data for each student when presenting them with the next question. Dreambox is game-based learning system that allows all students to learn by doing, solving problems using hands-on visual models and manipulatives. If students solve the question correctly they are rewarded and recognized with badges and the ability to play more games of their choosing, however, if they make a mistake, they receive immediate descriptive feedback, which shows them precisely why their answer was incorrect. This is crucial to child development and mathematical reasoning being developed by our children.

Twitter as an educational tool | Jeff Piontek wants to know what you think

I recently have been thinking about whether or not Twitter is actually a relevant tool in the classroom beyond those who are really dedicated to it and this is what I found.

On Feb. 10, 2011, the world was transfixed on the protests raging in Egypt. We all watched as thousands gathered in Tahir square, where they had been for the past several weeks, to listen to a speech by President Hosni Mubarak. Many figured this would be his resignation speech. Instead, it offered the citizens of Egypt very little in the way of change, even if it was being presented as something positive. For outsiders looking in, it seemed that the situation would only get worse.

What Mubarak might not have known is that while he was trying to maintain his iron grip on power, thousands of Egyptians were tweeting about their frustration with the dictator. Eventually, the people on the street, armed with nothing more than a cell phone and a free social media site, changed the course of history.

If you are a middle or high school social studies teacher, and you wanted to provide your students with a close-up view of the events unfolding in Egypt, you could turn to a traditional news service. Or, you could follow the hashtag #Egypt on Twitter and tap into the real-time pulse of unfolding events by people on the streets of Cairo.

Through our previous articles, we have introduced you to three pillars we believe are essential to be web literate. We have shown you how to use advanced search techniques to raise the quality of information found on the web, and we have explained how the information you find can be organized into a comprehensive library of knowledge using powerful web tools like Diigo. In this final part to the series, we will demonstrate how tools like Twitter can allow a researcher to share what is learned with the world, tap the knowledge of others to help make even stronger connections with the material, and even provide students with real-world problems at a moment’s notice.

At first glance, Twitter doesn’t appear to hold much value. Who cares about Justin Bieber’s haircuts! In fact, we both saw it as a waste and quit using it two or three times until we truly understood the organizational structure of information within this tool. Learning how to filter through tweets, organized using hashtags, will bring clarity and meaning to Twitter and will get you past the mosh pit of random thoughts and lackluster chitchat.

A hashtag is nothing more than a word or phrase (with no spaces) that is preceded by a # symbol. Examples include #edchat, #london2012, and #youthvote. Simply type a hashtag like one of these into Twitter’s search box to immediately generate results that are focused around the topic of your choice. Tagging is a beautiful thing, and a tag is something you can invent at any moment.

If you’re interested in a topic, but you don’t know of a hashtag that will be helpful with your research, simply do a search in Twitter using a keyword rather than a hashtag. Then, scan the results to see what hashtags people are using when they are discussing that particular topic.

For example, Brian did this the evening of President Mubarak’s speech, and he discovered that the two most popular hashtags being used at that time were #Egypt and #Jan25. By looking through the resources he found, he was able to see what the world was saying about this event. But then, Brian took it a step further.

He began a new Twitter post and typed in:

I wonder if the people in #Egypt are buying this? #Jan25

Upon posting, his message immediately gained a global audience interested in this topic. Within minutes, he had a response back from a woman in Cairo who confirmed his thinking: The Egyptians weren’t buying it at all! They chatted for a while, and at the conclusion of their conversation, he asked if she would be willing to Skype into a class of middle school students and teachers with whom he was working the next day. She agreed, and the students were able to ask her questions about what they had seen on television the evening before, about life in Egypt, and about her hopes for Egypt’s future. It was a powerful moment for everyone involved.

Reflecting back on this series of events, we have learned to appreciate the power of a social media tool such as Twitter to provide information and global communication. The role and knowledge of the educator is more important than ever in understanding how to use these tools to bring authentic experiences to our students. Unfortunately, many students do not see the educational value of a tool they might be using every day.

Any school or classroom can begin using Twitter as an important part of the learning process. To help the beginners out, we’ve developed a list of educational hashtags that can be used by teachers and students who are looking to connect beyond the classroom. Our recommendation is to print this list and hang it in the classroom near a computer. With a classroom account (under a teacher’s login and password), anyone in the class can tweet out questions requesting resources or sharing the learning that is taking place in that class. The appropriate hashtags should accompany each message. These messages might look like this:

Looking for global classrooms that can record their local water data to share with us over the next 12 months. #scichat

We are looking to shake up professional development in our district. What are some unique models you use. #profdev

Our class is looking to collaborate with another class to write and produce a PSA on #bullying and #cybersafety.

In addition to using Twitter as a way to connect globally, we’ve also seen examples of classrooms using Twitter as a way to share learning opportunities with others outside of the classroom. For example, supplementary photo and video tools provide the ability to share learning from anywhere someone can access an internet connection. This could be in a classroom, it could be on a field trip, or—as Jessica Caviness from Coppell High School in Texas explained to us—it could even be from a baseball game.

Mrs. Caviness was a new Twitter user who had attended a workshop of ours. Upon getting back to school, she told her geometry students that she just got a Twitter account. After jokingly welcoming her to the 21st century, students immediately began taking out their cell phones and following her. Then, a few nights later at a Texas Rangers baseball game, she was reminded of a problem from class a few weeks earlier. She decided to tweet the following, and within minutes, she had several replies from her students.

Days later, at yet another game, Mrs. Caviness decided to dig a bit deeper into students’ thinking. She tweeted a new picture and asked students to develop related problems.

Again, students jumped on this opportunity immediately. Before the game was over, she had quite a collection of student-created problems, including:

What Mrs. Caviness found most exciting was the fact that students dropped everything they were doing at home so that they could connect with her around these short math blasts.

Now, Mrs. Caviness sees many applications for using this tool to strengthen what students do at school each day and to build a library of material that she and her students can use in a flipped classroom environment. We invite you to read more about her class and their uses of Twitter here. You might also choose to follow Mrs. Caviness on Twitter.

We believe that there are three essential skills represented by the stories in this article:

  • Teachers should have the skill set to build their own personal learning networks (PLNs) to be global.
  • Teachers should be able to leverage their PLNs to bring the challenge of authentic conversation to their students.
  • Teachers should be able to use social media to connect their students to real-world problems.

Like Mrs. Caviness, we believe educators should be powerful role models and provide examples of how to use the most powerful social media tools to expand the boundaries of learning. Otherwise, our students might only end up following #Bieberhair.

This is a reprint of a great article that was published by Alan November and Brian Mull.


26 Talking Points to use with your staff about technology

I thought I would gather in one place many of the talking points that I use with principals and superintendents about Internet safety…

  1. Even though they may use fancy terms and know more than you do about their domain, you never would allow your business manager or special education coordinator to operate without oversight. So stop doing so with your technology coordinator.
  2. The technology function of your school organization exists to serve the educational function, not the other way around. Corollary: your technology coordinator works for you, not vice versa.
  3. Mobile phones, Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube, blogs, Wikispaces, Google, and whatever other technologies you’re blocking are not inherently evil. Stop demonizing them and focus on people’s behavior, not the tools, particularly when it comes to making policy.
  4. You don’t need special policies for specific tools. Just check that the policies you have are inclusive of electronic communication channels and then enforce the policies you already have on bullying, cheating, sexual harassment, inappropriate communication, illicit behavior, etc.
  5. Why are you penalizing the 95% for the 5%? You don’t do this in other areas of discipline at school. Even though you know some students will use their voices or bodies inappropriately in school, you don’t ban everyone from speaking or moving. You know some students may show up drunk to the prom, yet you don’t cancel the prom because of a few rule breakers. Instead, you assume that most students will act appropriately most of the time and then you enforce reasonable expectations and policies for the occasional few that don’t. To use a historical analogy, it’s the difference between DUI-style policies and flat-out Prohibition (which, if you recall, failed miserably). Just as you don’t put entire schools on lockdown every time there’s a fight in the cafeteria, you need to stop penalizing entire student bodies because of statistically-infrequent, worst-case scenarios.
  6. You never can promise 100% safety. For instance, you never would promise a parent that her child would never, ever be in a fight at school. So quit trying to guarantee 100% safety when it comes to technology. Provide reasonable supervision, implement reasonable procedures and policies, and move on.
  7. The ‘online predators will prey on your schoolchildren’ argument is a false bogeyman, a scare tactic that is fed to us by the media, politicians, law enforcement, and computer security vendors. The number of reported incidents in the news of this occurring is zero.
  8. Federal laws do not require your draconian filtering. You can’t point the finger somewhere else. You have to own it yourself.
  9. Students and teachers rise to the level of the expectations that you have for them. If you expect the worst, that’s what you’ll get.
  10. Schools that ‘loosen up’ with students and teachers find that they have no more problems than they did before. And, often, they have fewer problems because folks aren’t trying to get around the restrictions.
  11. There’s a difference between a teachable moment and a punishable moment. Lean toward the former as much as possible.
  12. If your community is pressuring you to be more restrictive, that’s when it’s time to educate, not capitulate. Overzealous blocking and filtering has real and significant negative impacts on information access, student learning, pedagogy, ability to address required curricular standards, and educators’ willingness to integrate technology. It also makes it awfully tough to prepare students for a digital era.
  13. ‘Walled garden’ online environments prevent the occurrence of serendipitous learning connections with the outside world.
  14. If you’re prohibiting teachers from being ‘friends’ with students online, are you also prohibiting them from being ‘friends’ with students in neighborhoods, at church, in volunteer organizations, at the mall, and in other non-school settings?
  15. Schools with mindsets of enabling powerful student learning usually block much less than those that don’t. Their first reaction is ‘how can we make this work?’ rather than ‘we need to keep this out.’
  16. As the lead learner, it’s your responsibility to actively monitor what’s being filtered and blocked and to always reconsider that in light of learning and teaching needs.
  17. If you trust your teachers with the children, you should trust them with the Internet. Addendum: Mistrust of teachers drives away good educators.
  18. If you make it too hard to get permission to unblock something, you might as well not have the option in the first place.
  19. Unless you like losing lawsuits, remember that students and staff have speech and privacy rights, particularly off-campus. Remember that any dumb decision you make is Internet fodder and has a good chance of going viral online. Do you really want to be the next stupid administrator story on The Huffington Post?
  20. When you violate the Constitution and punish kids just because you don’t like what they legally said or did and think you can get away with it, you not only run the risk of incurring financial liability for your school system in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars but also abuse your position of trust and send messages to students about the corruption of power and disregard for the rule of law.
  21. Never make a policy you can’t enforce.
  22. Don’t abdicate your teaching responsibility. Students do not magically gain the ability at the end of the school day or after graduation to navigate complex, challenging, unfiltered digital information spaces. If you don’t teach them how to navigate the unfiltered Internet appropriately and safely while you have them, who’s going to?
  23. Acceptable use and other policies send messages to students, staff, and parents. Is the predominant message that you want to send really that ‘the technologies that are transforming everything around us should first and foremost be feared?’
  24. Imagine a scale with two balancing pans. On one side are all of the anxieties, fears, barriers, challenges, and perceived problems that your staff, parents, and community members put forth. If you want effective technology integration and implementation to occur in your school system, it is your job as the leader to tip the scale the other way. Addendum: It is difficult to understand the learning power of digital technologies – and easy to dismiss their pedagogical usefulness – if you are not familiar enough with them to understand their positive affordances.
  25. In a hyperconnected, technology-suffused, digital, global world, you do your children a disservice – and highlight your irrelevance – by blocking out our present and their future.
  26. Educating is always, always more powerful than blocking.

BONUS 1. Elsewhere in your state – perhaps even near you – are school districts that have figured this out. They operate under the same laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that you do. If they can be less restrictive, why can’t you?


Reposted from a blog by Scott McLeod.

Mapping our way on the e-learning highway

Children’s brains may be developing differently as a result of exposure to digital technology, with profound implications for the education system, says the prime minister’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman.

Sir Peter made the claim to Parliament’s science and education committee, which in May kicked off an unprecedented inquiry into “21st century learning and digital literacy”, examining in particular how schools may need to change in the wake of the Government’s $1.5 billion investment in ultrafast broadband.

The inquiry has pitched progressives, who want to see teachers quickly evolve into tech-savvy new-age knowledge brokers, against conservatives, who worry about the practicalities and believe there remains a big role for traditionally delivered classroom teaching.

Sir Peter argued that schools and parents splurged a lot of money putting computers into schools 20 years ago that “didn’t make much difference educationally”.

But he opened a new front when giving evidence to the select committee on Wednesday – appropriately, via video-conference – saying that today’s children were the guinea pigs in “a new world we don’t fully understand”.

“Anyone who has seen a two-year-old playing around with an iPad knows what I am talking about. The digital world is leading to different ways in which the brain develops, different environments in which we learn . . . and it does seem to be having impacts on cognitive, social and emotional development.”

Sir Peter said neuroscientists and teaching researchers in Britain and the United States were just starting to look at the implications for education but there was a lack of information and it was pointless talking about it being “good or bad”.

“Whether it has any meaning – I think we should be careful.”

He said, for example, that studies had shown that parts of the brains of British taxi drivers expanded when they memorised “the Knowledge”, London’s inner city street map.

But what was evident was that the human race was going through a “radical change” in the way it communicated and achieved knowledge, he said.

“Whereas 20 years ago it was unequivocal [that] parents and teachers were the sources of information, now much information is obtained from the web or other digital media and the teacher’s role is becoming one of helping students interpret what is likely to be reliable or unreliable information.”

New technology, such as the web, could lift education in rural areas and disadvantaged urban communities as well as help New Zealand meet its “moral responsibility” to assist education among its Pacific neighbours, he said.

The Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA), which represents 18,000 mostly secondary school teachers, said that although children now expected learning to be “ICT-based”, it was going too far to say that today’s children were “wired differently”.

“The focus on supporting 21st century students who are collaborative, open-minded, life-long learners is important but we are some way from dispensing with content-learning altogether,” it said in its submission.

“There are few signs . . . that either parents, tertiary institutions or employers are ready to relinquish expectations that secondary students will have a sound knowledge in certain curriculum areas.”

The same football is being kicked around in different ways by many of the 90 submitters to the Parliamentary inquiry. Margot McKeegan, learning adviser for the Greater Christchurch Schools Network, which is promoting collaboration between 100 schools in the city, told the committee that she did not believe teachers should be registered unless they had demonstrated they were capable of working in an “e-learning environment”.

But the National Council of Women said it would disagree with that approach. Effective learning had always happened in a wide variety of environments, but the relationship between children and their teachers remained the most influential factor in a successful school, it said.

ECONOMIC Development Minister Steven Joyce signalled the Government had a strong appetite for reform in a speech to InternetNZ NetHui in June.

E-education would be “quite disruptive” and would turn on its head the concept of teaching and learning, changing the dynamics between educators and pupils, he said. “For those that embrace it, it is something that is going to be wonderful for people to be part of.”

The Government will next year begin rolling out the Network for Learning, a $300 million to $400 million “closed” network running over the ultrafast broadband network that will provide secure access to online resources and internet access for schools on centrally-negotiated terms.

The initiative appears to have attracted widespread support, including from the PPTA, which said it was a “reasonable compromise” in tackling the problem that the education system had become “devolved and divided”.

But there are doubts about how quickly the education sector will be able to grasp the nettle, given it remains a “people industry”.

Albany Senior High School deputy principal Mark Osborne told the inquiry a leadership crisis in schools threatened to derail plans to reshape the education system to take advantage of ultrafast broadband and e-learning.

Ten thousand of the country’s 50,000 teachers were approaching retirement and between 30 and 40 per cent of newly qualified teachers were leaving the profession within their first five years on the job, he said.

“We are trying to replace an ever-increasing pool of leavers with an ever-diminishing pool of new teachers.”

An Education Ministry spokeswoman said that although it was true its workforce was ageing, losses had fallen for several years and retention was increasing.

“Baby boomers” were staying in work longer than had been expected, she said. “The ministry has monitoring in place and is planning for the retirement of this group, when it does occur.”

In the meantime, a proportion of teachers and schools are achieving educational stardom by positioning themselves on the crest of the digital wave.

Albany High School turned heads in the information technology industry when it opened in 2009 by eschewing Microsoft software and deciding to use only free open-source software, for example.

That meant the school could then encourage pupils to bring their computers to school, freeing up their own resources to buy computers for those who could not afford them, Mr Osborne said. “Proprietary” software, on the other hand, could not be installed on students’ computers without breaching suppliers’ licensing conditions, he said.

It is in addressing bread-and-butter matters such as this that the Parliamentary inquiry could make its mark.

Mr Osborne said only Albany High School and two other schools had adopted “creative commons” licensing policies that allowed teachers to share online resources they had developed with other schools, without having first to seek the approval of their boards. Other schools had “all rights reserved on teaching and learning resources”.

Open-plan learning spaces that aided e-learning reduced disruptive behaviour, Mr Osborne said, because there could always be three or four teachers on hand to prevent children “taking on” an inexperienced teacher. They also meant teachers could learn from one another, which was important because the difference between the “best and worst” teachers in a school was always greater than the differences between schools themselves, he said.

Sir Peter said it was “fundamental” to put more money into research. “Scientists are no better at predicting the future than anybody else, which means they are bloody hopeless at it. We don’t know all the answers.

“But the inquiry has got to help design the teacher of 2025 or 2040, not 2012.”

What If Teens Prefer Twitter to Facebook

Now That Grandma Is On Facebook,

Where Will Teens Go to Socialize?

A member of my wife’s family and a few of her friends told me recently that they are enamored with Twitter. They love its rapid-fire updates, and the sense Twitter provides of being right in the moment. Over a weekend they were constantly checking and posting updates on their smartphones, and when it came to socializing with friends, she and her peers simply preferred Twitter to Facebook.

This isn’t earth-shattering news, but here’s the catch – all were in high school. Teen social media users seem to be flocking to Twitter right now, continuing a trend over the past two years, and reducing Facebook usage in favor of the 140-character social network. We’ve seen such a shift in preference before, when users flocked to Facebook over Myspace in 2007. History may be on the verge of another social platform shift, and brands can’t be caught flat-footed when it comes to marketing to the younger generation.

Why they’re choosing Twitter
According to an Associated Press report, Facebook’s generation-spanning popularity is partly to blame. In a world where it’s considered rude to turn down a friend request, especially from a family member, teens were suddenly seeing their aunts, uncles and parents in their News Feeds. Twitter connections aren’t mutual friendships as they are on Facebook; just because someone follows your tweets doesn’t mean you have to follow them back. Teenaged users like this feature, and they’re employing Twitter’s simpler privacy controls as well, choosing to hide their tweets from public view and sending them only to a select group of friends.

The type of interaction plays a major role as well, according to the teens I’ve met. To them, Facebook is more about sharing content, whether it’s videos, photos, music, or articles. Twitter is far more conversation based, a place where teens can tell their friends what they’re doing or how they feel. It’s about the present moment – what you’re doing, who you’re seeing, where you’re going – whereas Facebook is more about sharing memories after the fact.

Teens aren’t giving up on Facebook, but they’re treating it the same way the gainfully employed treat LinkedIn. They feel it’s important to maintain a page, but they check the social network sporadically. Twitter is where they go to check in throughout the day.

What Facebook can do
Facebook, with its 901 million active users, isn’t necessarily reeling simply because teens are adopting Twitter much faster then ever before, but marketers should be aware of the possibility that Facebook’s teen audience could shrink, or be less engaged than were prior generations. You can say “No one gets fired for buying Facebook,” but brands need to be sure to extend investment and innovation to Twitter — especially if they are marketing to teens.

Facebook needs to be mindful of the shift in teen usage as well, unless it wants to join Myspace in the social media dustbin. It might seem far-fetched to hint at Facebook’s decline, but it’s worth noting Myspace was getting more visitors than Facebook at one point in time. Myspace lost ground to Facebook because it failed to adapt. Facebook had a sleeker design — one that was less frantic, and contained fewer ads. Twitter’s main features may appear scrawny compared to Facebook’s, but it wouldn’t be the first social network to experience a dramatic shift in popularity.

Facebook may already be preparing for this competitive threat, as evidenced by its recent acquisition of Instagram. Still, brand marketers shouldn’t take Facebook’s continued preeminence for granted. They should keep tabs on the way younger audiences are using social media if they want to stay ahead of the competition.

How to Turn Your Classroom into an Idea Factory



Brightworks School

Students building a cafe at Brightworks School in San Francisco.

By Suzie Boss
The following suggestions for turning K-12 classrooms into innovation spaces come from Bringing Innovation to School: Empowering Students to Thrive in a Changing World, published in July by Solution Tree.

How can we prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s innovators? It’s an urgent challenge, repeated by President Obama, corporate CEOs, and global education experts like Yong Zhao and Tony Wagner. Virtually every discussion of 21st-century learning puts innovation and its close cousin, creativity, atop the list of skills students must have for the future.

If we’re serious about preparing students to become innovators, educators have some hard work ahead. Getting students ready to tackle tomorrow’s challenges means helping them develop a new set of skills and fresh ways of thinking that they won’t acquire through textbook-driven instruction. Students need opportunities to practice these skills on right-sized projects, with supports in place to scaffold learning. They need to persist and learn from setbacks. That’s how they’ll develop the confidence to tackle difficult problems.

How do we fill the gap between saying we must encourage innovation and teaching students how to actually generate and execute original ideas? The answers are emerging from classrooms across the country where pioneering teachers are making innovation a priority. Their strategies vary widely, from tinkering workshops and design studios to digital gaming and global challenges. By emphasizing problem solving and creativity in the core curriculum, these advance scouts are demonstrating that innovation is both powerful and teachable.

Across disparate fields, from engineering and technology to the social and environmental sectors, innovators use a common problem-solving process. They frame problems carefully, looking at issues from all sides to find opportunity gaps. They may generate many possible solutions before focusing their efforts. They refine solutions through iterative cycles, learning from failure along with success. When they hit on worthy ideas, innovators network with others and share results widely.

In the classroom, this same process corresponds neatly with the stages of project-based learning. In PBL, students investigate intriguing questions that lead them to learn important academic content. They apply their learning to create something new, demonstrate their understanding, or teach others about the issue they have explored. By emphasizing key thinking skills throughout the PBL process, teachers can guide students to operate the same way that innovators do in all kinds of settings.

Here are eight tips to borrow from classrooms where teachers are reinventing yesterday’s schools as tomorrow’s idea factories.


Good projects start with good questions. Listen closely to students to find out what makes them curious. Instead of presenting them with ready-made assignments, invite student feedback when you are designing projects. Make sure your driving questions for projects involve real-world issues that students care about investigating.


Projects offer an ideal context to develop students’ collaboration skills, but make sure teamwork doesn’t feel contrived. If projects are too big for any one student to manage alone, team members will have a real reason to rely on each other’s contributions. Teach students how to break a big project into manageable pieces and bring out the best ideas from everyone on the team. Offer them examples of innovations (from the Mars rover to the iPad) that wouldn’t have been possible without team efforts.


Innovators have a tendency to think big. They know how to use social networking tools to make a worthy idea go viral. Encourage students to share their projects with audiences beyond the classroom, using digital tools like YouTube or online publishing sites. Help them build networks to exchange ideas with peers and learn from experts around the globe.


Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Innovators who have empathy can step outside their own perspective and see issues from multiple viewpoints. Approaching a problem this way leads to better solutions. Teach students strategies for making field observations, conducting focus groups or user interviews, or gathering stories that offer insights into others’ perspectives.


Passion is what keeps innovators motivated to persist despite long odds and flawed first efforts. Find out what drives students’ interests during out-of-school time, and look for opportunities to connect these pursuits with school projects. Ask students: When you feel most creative, what are you doing? What tools or technologies are you using? Their answers should set the stage for more engaging projects.


In today’s flat world, where access to information is ubiquitous, innovation can happen anywhere. Opportunities to support good ideas are also getting flattened. Philanthropy and venture funding, once reserved for the wealthy, have been crowdsourced with online platforms like Kiva ( and Kickstarter ( To participate fully in the culture of innovation, students need to be able to do more than generate their own ideas. They also need to know how to critically evaluate others’ brainstorms and decide which ones are worth supporting. Develop classroom protocols for students to critically evaluate each other’s ideas. They may decide to throw their collective energy behind one promising idea or pull components from multiple teams into a final project.


Being a critical thinker also means being able to spot ideas that aren’t ready for prime time. Bold new ideas may have bugs that need to be worked out. An approach that appears to be a game-changer may be too expensive for the benefits it affords or may have unanticipated consequences. Give students opportunities to look for potential pitfalls and know when to say no.


Will students come up with breakthrough ideas in every project? Probably not, but you can encourage them to stretch their thinking by setting ambitious goals. What would students be able to do or demonstrate if they were truly operating as innovators?  Provide them with real-world examples by sharing stories of innovators from many fields, including social innovators who tackle wicked problems like poverty or illiteracy. Share the back stories of breakthroughs to show how much effort went into each inspired idea. Let students know they can’t expect to reach breakthrough solutions to every problem they tackle. Finding out what doesn’t work can be a useful outcome, too. Genuine innovation is indeed rare—but worth recognizing and celebrating when it happens.

Privatizing Public Schools: Big Firms Eyeing Profits From U.S. K-12 Market

In my opinion this is the beginning of the

end if this happens… is for the

masses not to be “privatized” to make

money for the few.

Privatizing Public Schools

By Stephanie Simon

NEW YORK, Aug 1 (Reuters) – The investors gathered in a tony private club in Manhattan were eager to hear about the next big thing, and education consultant Rob Lytle was happy to oblige.

Think about the upcoming rollout of new national academic standards for public schools, he urged the crowd. If they’re as rigorous as advertised, a huge number of schools will suddenly look really bad, their students testing way behind in reading and math. They’ll want help, quick. And private, for-profit vendors selling lesson plans, educational software and student assessments will be right there to provide it.

“You start to see entire ecosystems of investment opportunity lining up,” said Lytle, a partner at The Parthenon Group, a Boston consulting firm. “It could get really, really big.”

Indeed, investors of all stripes are beginning to sense big profit potential in public education.

The K-12 market is tantalizingly huge: The U.S. spends more than $500 billion a year to educate kids from ages five through 18. The entire education sector, including college and mid-career training, represents nearly 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, more than the energy or technology sectors.

Traditionally, public education has been a tough market for private firms to break into — fraught with politics, tangled in bureaucracy and fragmented into tens of thousands of individual schools and school districts from coast to coast.

Now investors are signaling optimism that a golden moment has arrived. They’re pouring private equity and venture capital into scores of companies that aim to profit by taking over broad swaths of public education.

The conference last week at the University Club, billed as a how-to on “private equity investing in for-profit education companies,” drew a full house of about 100.


In the venture capital world, transactions in the K-12 education sector soared to a record $389 million last year, up from $13 million in 2005. That includes major investments from some of the most respected venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, according to GSV Advisors, an investment firm in Chicago that specializes in education.

The goal: an education revolution in which public schools outsource to private vendors such critical tasks as teaching math, educating disabled students, even writing report cards, said Michael Moe, the founder of GSV.

“It’s time,” Moe said. “Everybody’s excited about it.”

Not quite everyone.

The push to privatize has alarmed some parents and teachers, as well as union leaders who fear their members will lose their jobs or their autonomy in the classroom.

Many of these protesters have rallied behind education historian Diane Ravitch, a professor at New York University, who blogs and tweets a steady stream of alarms about corporate profiteers invading public schools.

Ravitch argues that schools have, in effect, been set up by a bipartisan education reform movement that places an enormous emphasis on standardized test scores, labels poor performers as “failing” schools and relentlessly pushes local districts to transform low-ranked schools by firing the staff and turning the building over to private management.

President Barack Obama and both Democratic and Republican policymakers in the states have embraced those principles. Local school districts from Memphis to Philadelphia to Dallas, meanwhile, have hired private consultants to advise them on improving education; the strategists typically call for a broader role for private companies in public schools.

“This is a new frontier,” Ravitch said. “The private equity guys and the hedge fund guys are circling public education.”

Some of the products and services offered by private vendors may well be good for kids and schools, Ravitch said. But she has no confidence in their overall quality because “the bottom line is that they’re seeking profit first.”

Vendors looking for a toehold in public schools often donate generously to local politicians and spend big on marketing, so even companies with dismal academic results can rack up contracts and rake in tax dollars, Ravitch said.

“They’re taking education, which ought to be in a different sphere where we’re constantly concerned about raising quality, and they’re applying a business metric: How do we cut costs?” Ravitch said.


Investors retort that public school districts are compelled to use that metric anyway because of reduced funding from states and the soaring cost of teacher pensions and health benefits. Public schools struggling to balance budgets have fired teachers, slashed course offerings and imposed a long list of fees, charging students to ride the bus, to sing in the chorus, even to take honors English.

The time is ripe, they say, for schools to try something new — like turning to the private sector for help.

“Education is behind healthcare and other sectors that have utilized outsourcing to become more efficient,” private equity investor Larry Shagrin said in the keynote address to the New York conference.

He credited the reform movement with forcing public schools to catch up. “There’s more receptivity to change than ever before,” said Shagrin, a partner with Brockway Moran & Partners Inc, in Boca Raton, Florida. “That creates opportunity.”

Speakers at the conference identified several promising arenas for privatization.

Education entrepreneur John Katzman urged investors to look for companies developing software that can replace teachers for segments of the school day, driving down labor costs.

“How do we use technology so that we require fewer highly qualified teachers?” asked Katzman, who founded the Princeton Review test-prep company and now focuses on online learning.

Such businesses already have been drawing significant interest. Venture capital firms have bet more than $9 million on Schoology, an online learning platform that promises to take over the dreary jobs of writing and grading quizzes, giving students feedback about their progress and generating report cards.

DreamBox Learning has received $18 million from investors to refine and promote software that drills students in math. The software is billed as “adaptive,” meaning it analyzes responses to problems and then poses follow-up questions precisely pitched to a student’s abilities.

The charter school chain Rocketship, a nonprofit based in San Jose, California, turns kids over to DreamBox for two hours a day. The chain boasts that it pays its teachers more because it needs fewer of them, thanks to such programs. Last year, Rocketship commissioned a study that showed students who used DreamBox heavily for 16 weeks scored on average 2.3 points higher on a standardized math test than their peers.


Another niche spotlighted at the private equity conference: special education.

Mark Claypool, president of Educational Services of America, told the crowd his company has enjoyed three straight years of 15 percent to 20 percent growth as more and more school districts have hired him to run their special-needs programs.

Autism in particular, he said, is a growth market, with school districts seeking better, cheaper ways to serve the growing number of students struggling with that disorder.

ESA, which is based in Nashville, Tennessee, now serves 12,000 students with learning disabilities or behavioral problems in 250 school districts nationwide.

“The knee-jerk reaction [to private providers like ESA] is, ‘You’re just in this to make money. The profit motive is going to trump quality,’ ” Claypool said. “That’s crazy, because frankly, there are really a whole lot easier ways to make a living.” Claypool, a former social worker, said he got into the field out of frustration over what he saw as limited options for children with learning disabilities.

Claypool and others point out that private firms have always made money off public education; they have constructed the schools, provided the buses and processed the burgers served at lunch. Big publishers such as Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have made hundreds of millions of dollars selling public school districts textbooks and standardized tests.

Critics see the newest rush to private vendors as more worrisome because school districts are outsourcing not just supplies but the very core of education: the daily interaction between student and teacher, the presentation of new material, the quick checks to see which kids have risen to the challenge and which are hopelessly confused.

At the more than 5,500 charter schools nationwide, private management companies — some of them for-profit — are in full control of running public schools with public dollars.

“I look around the world and I don’t see any country doing this but us,” Ravitch said. “Why is that?”