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Tag: Teachers

25

This Time It's Personal and Dangerous

2013 has been an interesting year. Education is being juggled more than ever between pedagogy and corporate control AND it is personal — for you — for me — for our children. The marketing strategy of adaptive learning systems is that of 24/7 services that you can access at any time, in any place and at any pace. Education has adopted this language to reduce costs with business-like customization and streamlined productivity. The expectation is for a flexible education system that will also be more efficient and cost effective. [Source: Rebirth of the Teaching Machine Through the Seduction of Data Analytics: This Time It’s Personal by Phil McRae]

“The adaptive learning system crusade in schools is organized, growing in power and well-funded by venture capitalists and corporations. Many companies are looking to profit from student and teacher data that can be easily collected, stored, processed, customized, analyzed, and then ultimately resold”.

There’s money in it, but not for the right reasons nor for the right people: our children. I read this research by Phil McRae and it all made sense. This time it is personal. Corporations are taking our educational system, shaking it up and spitting out children who cannot think for themselves. They are calling it cost-effective but actually, adaptive learning systems are more costly than we know. It is all about the data this time. This is so dangerous for our society that I have to speak up and hope you speak up about this also. We need to fight for our children and their future and their data. Framing adaptive learning systems as “personalized learning” has to stop.  This image “At School in the Year 2000” – a futuristic image of learning as depicted on a postcard from the World’s Fair in Paris, Circa 1899 predicting what learning will be like in France in the year 2000. It is scary that this depiction is becoming true in the US and other parts of the world because we are being sold a bill of goods. Corporations and politicians are really good at framing what they believe we want to hear around a philosophy or concept that markets something they want to sell or use.

Teaching Machine

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons The idea of children having their own personal choice how they will learn is being redesigned as increasingly data driven, standardized, and mechanized learning systems. Children should not be treated like automated teller machines or credit reward cards where  companies can take their valuable data. It is all about control and saving money. But who’s money? Yes, technology can help personalize learning, but what technology and how? And who’s data?

Let’s be real: adaptive learning systems are for those things that can be easily digitized and tested like math problems and reading passages. They do not recognize or encourage high quality learning environments that are creative, inquiry-based, active, relevant, collaborative, and what our children need to be global citizens who are critical thinkers and problem-solvers.

We did this before. McRae reviews the history of using technology to control learning. It was all about feeding information to kids and controlling what they learned. B.F. Skinner did this in the 1950s where learning was about measurability, uniformity, and control of the student.

I grew up then and remember having problems understanding some concepts. That was mainly because everyone in the class was supposed to learn the same content at the same pace — too much content — too fast for most of us. I was provided an “intelligent tutor” outside of the classroom and sat in front of a screen answering multiple choice questions about what I read. I felt stupid and ashamed. It still didn’t make sense, but the teacher didn’t have extra time to spend with students falling behind.

I know I’m smart, but I felt stupid in many of my classes. If I went through that then, how many others felt like me? I wanted to give up, but one teacher and my parents believed in me. They spent time with me figuring out why I didn’t get it. That’s all I wanted — time with a real person who cared. We didn’t have all the technology then that we have now or I would have googled it and figured it out by myself. The problem with the technology then was that it wasn’t personal for me. It was the same worksheet I didn’t understand in the first place now on a screen.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI) became the next big thing. Programs like PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations)and Computer Curriculum Corporation (CCC) were building labs for schools for large numbers of at-risk children paid with Title I money and categorical funds. I remember these because I was asked as technology coordinator and professional developer to help set them up. Schools put these labs in any area that would fit. Some high poverty schools had them set up next to heaters and most were managed by a parent or para-professional. Teachers would rotate their classes in and out every week. Kids were so excited at first to play the games that supposedly taught concepts they needed to learn.

After about six months, kids got bored with the games and clicked on any keys just to get through the games. There was nothing relevant or made sense for them to be there. Kids are so much smarter than we give them credit. When they were in their classes, they felt like they could maybe ask questions about their learning. But, in the lab, there was no one or no way to question what or if that was the one right answer. After a few years, the labs were dismantled or used for other purposes. But all the money was gone so there was no one left to run the labs or train the teachers. <p> CAI is now back as “adaptive learning systems.” Some of the old programs have been repurposed with more interactivity. McRae states it as “adaptive learning systems still promote the notion of the isolated individual, in front of a technology platform, being delivered concrete and sequential content for mastery. However, the re-branding is that of personalization (individual), flexible and customized (technology platform) delivering 21st century competencies (content).” [Source: McRae’s research]

CCC’s SuccessMaker is now Pearson’s adaptive learning system. Other adaptive systems have repurposed content but they still promote building mastery with sequential content. It is similar to the old worksheets repurposed using new technology. Dreambox refers to Skinner’s teaching machine and “adaptive learning as a computer-based and/or online educational system that modifies the presentation of material in response to student performance. Best-of-breed systems capture fine-grained data and use learning analytics to enable human tailoring of responses. The associated learning management systems (LMS) provide comprehensive administration, documentation, tracking and reporting progress, and user management.” [Source: http://www.dreambox.com/adaptive-learning] Source: U.S. Department of Education , Office of Educational Technology, Enhancing Teaching and Learning Through Educational Data Mining and Learning Analytics: An Issue Brief October 2012, page 30

Dreambox is now framing their system as “Intelligent Adaptive Learning” and others are starting to use the term “Intelligent Tutors.” Companies are creating hundreds of white papers and studies to prove that adaptive learning systems benefit our children. Be careful! Read them closely for the messages being delivered. We need to be critical consumers for our children’s sake. McRae writes why we are so seduced for adaptive learning systems:

“First, it is seen as opening up possibilities for greater access to data that can be used to hyper-individualize learning and in turn diagnose the challenges facing entire school systems. Second, the modern teaching machines, and the growing reach and power of technologies, promises to (re)shape students into powerful knowledge workers of the 21st Century.”

As I said in my own situation, all I needed was time and someone who cared and listened to me. Today the technology is at our fingertips and children are using technology at younger and younger ages. We don’t need to spend millions on these systems. Information is available when we need it now. We just need to teach our children how to acquire the skills that help them access, evaluate, and use the information they find. We cannot feed information to children from “Teaching Machines” like what was in the 1899 postcard and what Skinner projected. It didn’t work in the 50s or the 90s. It won’t work now. This is dangerous for our children and our society.

Our children need caring and compassionate classrooms that encourage independent, creative and collaborative work. Technology is changing rapidly. We don’t need to go backwards and plug our children into machines.They will do that on their own but they need guidance in a different way. They need to know what is happening with their data. Schools protect student data, but adaptive learning systems sell the data to third party companies. Consider all the free social media and other programs available that collect data from you. You probably are aware when you sign in to certain programs, they know you and your data. But you might not have known that your child’s data including social security numbers and health concerns are being sold to third parties. This is dangerous! It will get even more dangerous if the government funds it and encourages the use of adaptive learning systems without some oversight.

Teachers need to know how to facilitate a different kind of learning environment that is flexible, personal, and creative. Personalized learning means that learners own and drive their learning not the technology using algorithms based on performance that controls learning. Learners need to learn how to think on their own. This will not happen if adaptive learning systems control how and what they learn. It is personal now! Let’s all work together and do the right thing for our children. Teach them to learn, unlearn, and relearn. Show them that they can drive their learning so they can reach their fullest potential.

3

Personalizing ISTE 2012 with My Friends

Barbara Bray avatarI’m on my way to ISTE in San Diego soon. I’m going to be talking about personalizing learning. I’m pulling together my presentations, events, and meetings. I’m pretty excited about seeing many of my friends from around the world. Now here’s my dilemma — I want to spend time with friends but I am planning to network. Some of my friends have contracted me to provide services. I guess I’m what you call a “networker” and “digital friend.” But the boundaries are getting fuzzier and fuzzier because of social media. This is my avatar on the right. Red hair — always smiling. I kind of look like my avatar. The real me may appear a little shorter  :)

I started looking at my Personal Learning Network (PLN) and get it that I’m all over social media. I do love it. I love the connections, learning from friends I’m following and who are in my circles, on Scoopit and Pinterest, connections on LinkedIn, those who share on my FB timeline or in my Twitter feeds. I guess one of the decisions I had to make when creating circles in Google+ is what circles to put people in. I didn’t feel right putting some people in acquaintances because I felt like they were kind of “friends.”

So now I have to think about what is a friend? Who do I call my friends? Actually, most of the same people are popping up as friends or connections across social media. Many of these friends I don’t know but look forward to meet at ISTE. I hope you introduce yourself and say “I’m your friend on …..” That is if you want a hug.

I’m a hugger and networker. See me walking down the exhibit hall and I’m talking to everyone. Meet you the first time, I’ll shake your hand, look you in the eyes, and have a great conversation. Next time, I’ll probably hug you. Can’t help it. That’s me!

So if you hug me back, then we can call each other friends? Nooooo! It’s more than that. Friends and business acquaintances are different. Can you be both? Yes!

MMMmmmmmm……

I only started thinking about this when my social media connections got pretty big and I was scooping this and tweeting that and spending too much time on social media. Social media started taking over. I love connecting to all my friends. Now I’m getting ready for ISTE and will see so many of you — my wonderful friends. But I’m going to ISTE to share my research, my work, and learn from you.

Missing Piece

This time I’m very excited about the prospect of working with others who are researching Personalized Learning and how it can transform education. I’m looking to talk to you, learn from you, and maybe work with you. I have been collaborating with Kathleen McClaskey and set up our own site Personalize Learning. We both believe that learning starts with the learner.  We are getting connected to new “Friends” because of our work around Personalized Learning.

ISTE 2012 ConferenceI hope to see you at ISTE at our sessions. We’re hosting a Birds of a Feather session on Monday  that is mainly interactive by you the participants. You bring the questions, talk about them in small groups, and then share back. We’ll collect the information and share them with you on our website. We are also doing a presentation about Personalized Learning Toolkits  on Tuesday at 3:45 and anticipate lots of feedback and sharing. Kathleen and I have worked very hard on this presentation and hope you find it beneficial. Join us!

So I hope to see lots of my friends in San Diego. I am hooked on social media. Probably will be hugging a few of you. I just have to say thank you to so many of my friends who have been there for me for so many years. I feel very fortunate. It will be fun to see you and meet in person some of my virtual friends for the first time.

Some ways to connect:

Check out my Scoop-its:

 

Contact me via barbara.bray@gmail.com if you want to set up a time to meet at the conference.

7

How Personalized Learning is Being Framed

The term “Personalized Learning” is huge and controversial. Technology offers incredible potential for education. The concern I have is how educational technology companies are framing how technology can personalize learning. I attended the keynote of NYU professor Diane Ravitch on March 16, 2012 at the Computer-Using Educators (CUE) conference in Palm Springs, California who started with “for a century, educators have dreamed about student-centered learning, and now technology has the potential to make it real.” Ravitch explains this in more detail in her latest book: The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education

“Educational technology helps students rise to a level of engagement and learning “far beyond” what a textbook can offer,” Ravitch said, “adding that textbooks often avoid sensitive or difficult topics from the past because publishers and those with a stake in adoption want the textbooks to be approved for student use. Textbooks have been plagued by a regime of silence and censorship, and for years, educators have wondered how to expose students to true versions of the events they read about in their textbooks. So what do you do?”

“ The answer is technology,” Ravitch said. “For instance, educators can show videos depicting historical events or portraying scientific phenomena without editing. Technology is too big, too various, too wide open, and far too much for them to monitor,” she said. “It’s free, and they can’t make you edit out the controversial stuff—they can try, but I think it might be too hard.”

Ed tech has, in fact, helped spur new kinds of freedom. Teachers aren’t the only ones who see technology’s potential in the classroom—entrepreneurs see it as a way to make money, and policy makers see it as a way to cut costs and, in some cases, eliminate teachers.

“Some advocates of online instruction say it will make possible reductions of 30 percent of today’s teaching staff,” Ravitch said. “The bottom line for some is profits, not students.”

Technology adapts curriculum, analyzes data, stores content, allows anonymity, and produces vast amounts of information. In many of these cases, companies frame what they do with technology as personalized learning.

Ravitch added “no machine can judge nuance, or irony, or tone, or some amazing bursts of creativity. I fear the use of these programs will inevitably reduce student work. … I fear a loss of thoughtfulness” as students write papers to satisfy a computer. This is the thinking of a world too flat for me. … Don’t let them flatten you,” Ravitch said. “Don’t let them give you a number—we are not cattle; we should not be branded. Let us dare to use technology as it should be used—to dream, create, explore, and learn without boundaries. Let us use the power of technology to say ‘No’ to those who want to standardize our minds and the minds of our students.”

Diane RavitchDiane Ravitch is an historian of education at New York University. Her best-selling book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, has made her one of the nation’s most sought after speakers on current issues. She is a graduate of Houston public schools, Wellesley College, and holds a PhD from Columbia University. She has received nine honorary doctorates and many awards for her scholarship.  She served as Assistant Secretary of Education for Research and Improvement in the administration of President George H.W. Bush and was appointed to two terms on the National Assessment Governing Board by the Clinton administration.  She lives in New York City.

 

Educational companies are framing personalized learning to adapt what you learn. Their software adapts to your learning so learners sit in front of a computer half a day.  It is also being framed as a way to make learning cost-effective and guarantees increasing scores. They are promoting that computers can take over the work of a teacher. This is what I say: “A computer cannot personalize learning like a teacher and a student can.” It is all about the learner not the software, the textbook, or the tools. Personalized learning starts with the learner.

For more information on Personalized Learning, go to Personalize Learning.

0

It's not Personal. It's Business.

Anyone and any company can say the words “Personalized Learning” even if it isn’t personalizing learning. It’s how you frame it. It’s about business. It’s not personal. I think I’ve heard this before. Yes – it’s a quote from the first Godfather movie 1972.

Michael Corleone:Where does it say that you can’t kill a cop?
Tom Hagen: Come on, Mikey…
Michael Corleone: Tom, wait a minute. I’m talking about a cop that’s mixed up in drugs. I’m talking about a – a – a dishonest cop – a crooked cop who got mixed up in the rackets and got what was coming to him. That’s a terrific story. And we have newspaper people on the payroll, don’t we, Tom?
[Tom nods]
Michael Corleone: And they might like a story like that.
Tom Hagen: They might, they just might.
Michael Corleone: [to Sonny] It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.

Quote from IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068646/quotes?qt=qt0361860

So why am I talking about this now? Okay – I’m not saying that companies that are using the term “Personalized Learning” are like the Godfather. I used this because this quote talked about stories and taking something personal. It’s all about the stories we tell and how we frame things. If you frame “Personalized Learning” that it is all about demonstrating success by increasing test scores, the story you are telling is not about the learner.  It is not Personalized Learning. Personalized learning is all about the learner,  how they learn best, taking what they know and using their talents to guide them along their learning path. Adaptive instruction is about using data and designing lessons that ultimately increase student achievement and test scores. Personalized learning is about learners setting their own goals to direct their learning.

Adaptive, individualized, and differentiated instruction is teacher-directed instruction. I am not saying that we don’t need the teacher or direct instruction. Teachers need to understand the learners so they develop effective instruction for all learners. Personalized learning means that learners understand how they learn best. It also means that teachers use whatever means and data they can to understand how each of their learners learn best. Then they can develop better instruction for each and every learner in their class.

Kathleen McClaskey has shared with me how Universal Design of Learning (UDL) based on neuroscience can be used to design lessons that are intentional and informed to reach the maximum amount of learners in the classroom. Teachers who use UDL understand how they can engage students and  provide access to the content in addition to understanding how students can express what they know. This becomes personal from the learners’ perspective. With this type of understanding of each student in the class, a teacher then can be an advisor, guide, and co-learner to help the learner guide their learning path.

Kathleen and I are asking educators to be critical reviewers and curators of the information that they read on personalized learning. Both of us have been curating the topic for some time. We started Scoopits on Personalized Learning that you can follow:

 

I trademarked “Making Learning Personal” over ten years ago before the standardized movement became so big.  Then education moved away from what I believed learners needed and the emphasis became teaching to the masses with standardized tests using “one size fits all” instruction. This became big business for textbook companies who created curriculum that needed to be approved by each state; it was more about being proficient at grade level and less about the learner. Teaching moved to direct instruction and mostly recall of information. That’s where the standardized test movement grew. My focus on personalizing learning moved from project-based learning to direct instruction and creating lesson plans that taught to the test. It became about the tools, the tests, and the data. It didn’t start with the learner or how they learned best.

“I took it personal. Now I know it was just business.”


I just want to encourage businesses and educators to frame the term “Personalized Learning” correctly. If you adapt the curriculum, you are not personalizing it. The stories Kathleen and I will be telling in our book, on our blogs, sharing in Scoopit, and on social media will be about personalized learning models and how learners can personalize their own learning. Teachers ARE a critical component in personalizing the learning for each learner. We will share research how Finland, British Columbia, models in the US, and around the world are personalizing learning. I ask you as you research personalized learning that you:

  • are a critical reviewer of information on personalized learning.
  • investigate who is writing the material about personalized learning.
  • ask what their purpose is in using the term “Personalized Learning.”
  • develop appropriate goals in personalizing learning for your school based around the learner first.
  • share how you are personalizing learning with Kathleen and I so we can tell your story.
0

What I Remember

I read Chris Lehman’s post on “What we should remember” about why we teach. It’s all about our kids. That’s it! Thank you Chris for a thought-provoking post! I am in awe of what your students are able to do at the Science Leadership Academy and hope more people get involved in Educon 2.3 end of January.

I work mostly with middle school students. Remember what it was like to be in middle school or junior high. This was my toughest time in school. I remember falling in love with a boy who didn’t even know my name. I remember loving Paul McCartney because I knew he would see me in the audience and want to date me. I remember almost everything but my teachers’ names or even what happened in the classrooms. I remember embarrassing times and scary times. It was an awkward time where friendships meant more than my own family. I remember not feeling smart because I don’t remember anyone telling me I was smart.

What I wore, how I looked meant more than what I learned. So are middle school students different today than I was then? Most of the schools I work with are Title I schools with high percentages of free and reduced lunches. This was the target for NCLB. I’m sorry to say there are more poor children left behind now than ever before. I grew up in a safe environment where we didn’t have to worry about life and death decisions. I love Glee and believe all children are smart and talented. I grew up in a house with artists who never new there was a box to be in or lines to color in. However, Glee represents a middle class school. I’m white and grew up in middle class neighborhoods. I had no idea what children from high poverty schools go through. Yesterday I read “I am” poems and autobiographies from some of the children from one of the middle schools I work with. I cried. I really cried. I was sitting in the faculty room of one school and couldn’t even imagine what many of these students endure.

I don’t want to share their personal stories here but imagine most children in this school had a family member shot; knew someone in prison probably a father or brother; come from a broken home; do not have enough money for breakfast; don’t have a warm coat; may lose their home; some are homeless. When you realize that some of these students sleep in their bathtubs because that is the only safe place from bullets, you wonder if they’ll stay in school. I read about 12 year old girls who believe their only goal is to get pregnant. That way they have someone who will love them. Oh my! I heard this before, when I started with the Technology Challenge Grant in Oakland in 1998. We were working with 4th-8th grade students. I just thought it was getting better. It seems much much worse now.

The dropout rate is higher than being reported because we lose kids in middle school. The numbers reported are only high school dropout rates. Middle school is where we need to focus our energy. If we really want to make a difference, we need to change middle schools around the country.  Teachers only know what they were taught or how they have been teaching or what is asked of them by the administration. Teachers cannot do this without the support of their administration and the district office. My next post will be some ideas for them. Chris writes some great questions in his post for teachers and principals. So here’s my ideas for middle school teachers to reach their students:

  • greet your children when they arrive to your classroom by name and shake their hands.
  • have compassion and empathy for your students perception and positions.
  • realize that all children are smart — find out how they are smart and celebrate it.
  • create opportunities for success in every classroom.
  • design engaging learning environments where students own their learning.
  • be an advisor to several children if there is no counseling program.
  • get to know your students’ families and invite them to your classroom or visit their home.
  • have students keep a journal for their eyes only — unless they want to share it with you and others.
  • bring in content experts either to your classroom or virtually.
  • connect your classroom to other classrooms around the world.
  • connect your curriculum to real-world applications that make sense to your students and their lives.
  • create replacement units that engage your students of some content areas in the pacing guide.
  • ask students to ask three other students before asking you.
  • encourage questions – lots of questions and post them around the room.
  • be more of a co-learner and facilitator of learning.
  • take some risks and be okay about failing some of the time.
  • if you cannot take risks, then rethink your job there. Go where your core beliefs are the same.
  • and if there are no other jobs and you feel lucky to have this job, then use some of the ideas here with your students.

Learning in middle schools of the past for today’s children is an oxymoron. 11-13 year olds have different perspectives on life and what they need to know than adults no matter their situation. Add poverty and crime and hopelessnes and it is an almost impossible thing to ask of these students and teachers. Our current school system is broken especially for these kids at these ages. I am only one person and realize the challenge to make this kind of change is enormous. We cannot lose any more children. They are all precious and special and gifted and smart. They are our future. I will do whatever I can to support teachers as they do what they can to help students reach their fullest potential.

0

Balancing Act

Most people that become coaches tend to be nurturers. They usually became a teacher or coach because they like to help people. A good coach sets up the guidelines for an effective relationship with the people they coach. Agreeing on a contract for meetings, communication and due dates will ensure the relationship will work. A relationship between a coach and the coachee needs to be built on trust: trust that both will show up on time, tasks are done in a timely manner, questions are answered and materials are created when needed.

Contracts need to be reconsidered for a successful coaching relationship. Coaches especially those who are teachers have trouble saying no when someone needs them.

eCoaching takes coaching many steps further. How do you set up a contract based on time when virtual coaching can be at anytime from anywhere? This is where the coach and coachee set up a contract that is really clear on products, tasks, and feedback and what is realistic between them.

This is where you need to be realistic about your time. Think of your clients, where you live, where they live and the time zone differences. I received calls at 4am when working with people in Europe. I live in California. I used to answer the phone and jump whenever someone called. If someone wrote an email or tech support, I was right on it. Unfortunately, there was no balance in my life. I was at the mercy of my clients. It is important to set up contracts and realistic expectations on how you will support the people you coach.

  • Set up a contract for you and your coachees.
  • Put that contract on your team page so everyone can refer to it.
  • Build in realistic expectations on how soon you will respond.
  • Negotiate with your coachees roles and responsibilities.
  • Monitor the progress of your relationship.
  • Update and change the expectations when needed.

There are more ideas but the main thing is to protect you and your time, your space, and your personal life. There has to be a balance in your life. You are modeling what you want for the people you are supporting.