Category Archives: Education reform

Let Them Eat Napkins

Not only does this mark the 400th post on the Six Nations Numeracy blog, it is a post filled with what the future may hold for education.  The entire article appears below, but if you prefer to see it at the original source (as well as a printable version) click here.
‘Mass Customized Learning’: The key to education reform?
Posted By Meris Stansbury On February 21, 2012 @ 1:03 pm In AASA,Best Practices News,Curriculum,eClassroom News,Featured AASA,Featured Best Practice,Featured Superintendent’s Center,School Reform News,Superintendent’s Center,Top News | 2 Comments

Technology helps make this mass customization possible through personalized digital learning.

Would you still drive a car if it was the Ford Model T? No? Even if the paint was new and it had air conditioning? The answer would always be “no,” said one education reform expert, because no matter how much you spruce up an old model, there’s always a maximum capacity … and the same applies to education.

During the American Association of School Administrators’ National Conference on Education [2]Julie Mathiesen, director of Technology &  Innovation in Education (TIE), a professional development organization based in Rapid City, S.D., argued that the only way to achieve true education reform is to redesign student learning from class time to curriculum, and from teaching styles to learning spaces.

A key way to accomplish this reform, said Mathiesen, is to implement “Mass Customized Learning,” in which the instruction is tailored to each student’s needs and interests. And technology helps make this mass customization possible through personalized digital learning.

“The current Industrial Age system of education is working perfectly,” she said, “if you’re looking for 25 percent skilled and 75 percent unskilled students—[or] if you’re looking to have around one million students fail to graduate high school every year. We need to completely revamp the system.”

According to Mathiesen, the old way of learning doesn’t work anymore, because students are living in a world where they are no longer “told” how to think and don’t process and learn through “telling.” Instead, students learn by doing and by learning anytime, anywhere.

“One way to accomplish this is through the use of technology. I heard a great quote recently,” said Mathiesen, smiling: “‘The web and technology are setting out a great buffet of teaching and learning tools; however, most schools are just eating the napkins.’ If schools could learn about some of the great, free resources available, and learn how to engage students, true reform could start to take hold. We can’t keep simply tinkering with education.”

Along with the Model T reference, Mathiesen also discussed the book Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life [3], by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

According to the theory of “Flow,” there’s a boredom threshold and a challenge threshold. For example, we’re all skilled at clapping our hands but would find this too boring to do for fun. Like clapping hands, class activities can’t be based solely on skills—they have to be exciting and engaging as well.

Now take the example of knitting: People who knit like to apply skills to a challenging task to stimulate their mind. But if you say to those people, “You must knit a sweater and accomplish it all, perfectly, in one hour,” most will find it too challenging and quit.

“The classroom must be a place that balances both skill and engagement, and it can’t be limited to a time and place. One way to accomplish this engaging, successful, 24-7 learning environment is through customization that’s currently available through a number of resources,” said Mathiesen.

According to TIE, Mass Customized Learning (MCL) is described in this scenario: “What if every day, every learner came to school and was met with customized learning activities at his or her precise developmental and achievement level, was learning in his or her most effective learning style with content of interest, was challenged, was successful, and left school eager to come back tomorrow?”

An example of MCL can be seen in this video, which theorizes what a student’s MCL experience would look like:

Mathiesen also named a number of free online resources that educators can use to reach and engage their students. Examples include:

• iTunesU [4]: K-12 curriculum videos are also included.

• Google Earth [5]: It’s not just a map; it also includes activities such as looking at classical art in museums in Italy and mapping shark and whale migratory patterns, to name a few.

• Wolfram Alpha [6]: A computational knowledge engine.

• Khan Academy [7]: Free online lectures and videos.

• [8]: These free online textbooks are also customizable and include many interactive components.

A full list of online resources and tools, as well as Mathiesen’s presentation, can be found on her TIE wiki page [9].

More information about TIE’s approach to MCL, including a rubric to get started, can be found in the book Inevitable: Mass Customized Learning, Learning in the Age of Empowerment, by Chuck Schwann and Beatrice McGarvey. Information can be found here [10].

TIE also is collaborating with the authors of this book to produce a field book of resources to support educational leaders in implementing MCL. A sample of resources from the soon-to-be published field book can be found here [11].

“Obviously, you can’t go into your school tomorrow and say, ‘OK, let’s implement MCL in one day,’”
Mathiesen said, “but you can start by identifying important content and skills today’s students need [and] determining how best students can learn these, by customizing content and by redefining space and time constraints.”

Article printed from eSchool News:
URLs in this post:
[2] National Conference on Education :
[3] Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life
[7] Khan Academy

The Right Drivers for Whole System Education Reform

Very interesting piece from the Huffington Post (called The Global Search) on the left sidebar, under Numeracy in the News.  Read the entire article below, or click here for the link to the original source

“The way to improve the quality of teaching is through teamwork in the schools, and then surround it with better teacher pre-service, better attraction of the profession, and better professional development.” — Michael Fullan

Michael Fullan has been working to identify the right drivers for whole system education reform. His paper, “Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole System Reform,” has stimulated considerable interest from educators around the world (including the U.S.) to understand the policies and strategies that can help get education into successful system reform, i.e. real solutions to closing the achievement gap and improving learning so that students learn better than they did before.
Michael Fullan is Professor Emeritus at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, and is Special Adviser on Education to Dalton McGuinty, the Premier of Ontario. Fullan served as dean of the faculty of education at the University of Toronto from 1988 to 2003. He is currently working as adviser and consultant on several major education reform initiatives around the world. His work is based on how large-scale reform can be successfully accomplished. He has written several best sellers on leadership and change. His latest book isChange Leader: Learning to Do What Matters Most.
What kind of education system will permit a country to have the people skills needed to compete globally?
We did a qualitative study called “The Slow Road to Higher Order Skills” to take a look at what we call the 21st century skills. The skills that are normally listed, like creativity, communication, collaboration, problem solving, reasoning and digital literacy, are not well operationalized. Even though there has been a big project from Cisco/Intel/Microsoft to do that, the progress has been very slow. In Ontario, we want to start deeply with literacy and numeracy. We do not want to be narrow in our focus, but we also do not want to get into the vagaries of the 21st century skills that people talk about but do not operationalize. In short, no one seems to know what “there” looks like when it comes to higher order skills, and correspondingly, no one knows how to get there.
What are your views on standardized testing?
The worst thing a system can do is load up on standards and assessments in a way that overwhelms schools. This is wrong driver number one. Instead, we have to focus on instruction and learning (personalized to each student) as the centerpiece, and then link to standards and assessments. The driver here has to be assessment-instruction up close with the student and the teacher. In my paper, “Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole System Reform,” I identified how some systems are mishandling accountability.
Note: To briefly summarize Fullan’s paper, the four wrong drivers are the focus on accountability (versus intrinsic motivation and capacity building), individual quality (versus group quality), technology (versus instruction), fragmented (versus systemic) solutions.
Testing is important in what I am going to call the accountability strategy, but the push on standardized testing can become too narrow and it becomes a mindset that says we have to load up on assessment and also identify with world class standards (such as PISA) in terms of assessment. Almost all of the skills that I consider the high order skills are measurable if you want to measure them. Politicians make assessments based on testing that is narrower than it should be. The PISA test is a great example of how we can break out of that mold. On top of this, we have been working on the “black box” of implementation for which you not only need better assessments, but you also need innovative instruction in relation to those assessments. Once again, the core is assessment-instruction personalized to each learner.
We seem to have become assessment obsessed in the U.S. since our poor results in the last PISA Test.
The greater urgency the U.S. places on competing internationally, the more that becomes an obsession in the wrong direction. The U.S. school systems have been losing ground since 1980 with growing gaps between high and low performers, and poor rankings internationally. The U.S. needs to take PISA benchmarks seriously, they need to get behind the numbers and realize that the top performers got there by building the collective capacity of teachers in the country — all the teachers.

2011-10-23-cmrubinworldmichaelfullan1400.jpg“With Sir Ken Robinson, we want to map out the curriculum that includes the arts as well as literacy and math.” — Michael Fullan

What can be done to better address the emotional well-being of some kids today given the rise in competition and the pressure to achieve?
We have too many tests, so one way to reduce stress is to have fewer tests. I agree we have to reduce the stress on kids. Enabling them to have more success would be a great stress reducer. So, I would rather ask first what goals we are striving for. Let’s build those goals into the learning experience. And those goals have to include the well-being of our kids.
I think of the problem as a three legged stool. Let’s call the three legs: standards, assessment, and instruction. I want to go beyond the word curriculum and focus also on instruction. We’ve got standards. Even though they’ve not improved enough, there is a foot in the door around higher level skills, which should include well being. Our solution is to strengthen the two way street between instruction and assessment. Assessment should be a strategy teachers use to personalize the curriculum for kids and to improve instruction.
Dylan Wiliam has published a book called Embedded Formative Assessment (Solution Tree), and it’s all about teachers and students engaged in the two way street between instruction and assessment of how they are doing. The answer for me is to zero in on instruction and assessment. In addition, we are beginning to work with Sir Ken Robinson to ensure curriculum is broadened to include the arts. Students’ well-being will be greatly served by tapping into the intrinsic motivation of a range of kids.
Note: see Global Search for Education, my interviews with Sir Ken Robinson and with Dylan Wiliam.
What is the nature of the respect for teachers in countries that are doing well in education?
When you look at Finland, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong, all of which have high quality teachers, you will see that it’s not just that they have good teachers, but also because they have improved the whole profession. It’s a combination of incentivizing teachers and improving working conditions. Teacher’s salaries have been going up in the U.S., so it’s not just about teachers’ salaries. It is more about the respect for teachers, the quality of their preparation, the working conditions, and enabling teachers to work together. It’s a big task for the U.S. because the U.S. is starting so far behind.
What the U.S. is counting on is the wrong driver on teacher appraisal. We think the way to improve the quality of teaching is through teamwork in the schools, and then surround it with better teacher pre-service, better attraction of the profession, and better professional development. Those surround things are enablers rather than causes, and the core cause is to improve the profession itself. You have to improve the entire teaching profession, not just reward the top 20 percent and punish the bottom 20 percent. You have to improve the daily work of all teachers, which is what we are doing in Ontario.
Does Canada’s definition of educational excellence take into account the quality of life of individuals and of a society’s artistic and cultural achievements?
No, not yet. I have been an advisor to the Premier of Ontario since 2003. We are in our 8th year now and we have spent a lot of time getting the house in order, so to speak. I would say that what we have done is get to the point where our next phase is to go for the whole well-being of the child. We have the stage set to do that. Five years ago, OECD UNESCO did a report on child well-being in rich countries. This study assessed the well being of students in about 20 countries. It showed Canada well down. A policy objective has to be the well-being of students. We are looking forward to working with Sir Ken Robinson from the UK who, as you know, has advocated for the arts in education for over a decade. We need to integrate some of Ken’s thinking into our ongoing goals. Specifically, what we are now working on is to integrate technology, pedagogy, and change knowledge to accelerate personalized learning. We need learning that is deeply engaging for students, precise (i.e. it has to be specific and concrete), high yield (big return for the effort) and higher order. With Sir Ken Robinson, we want to map out the curriculum that includes the arts as well as literacy and math.

2011-10-23-cmrubinworldmichaelfullan.jpgProfessor Michael Fullan and C. M. Rubin