Friday, November 14, 2014

Bye-bye textbooks! How digital devices are reshaping education

It’s only one statistic, but anyone who has spent any time with a student or pupil between, say 11 and 21, will recognize the number as, if anything, rather low – but this infographic from, reckons that school pupils check their digital devices once every ten minutes or so.
It’s way more than that in our house.
The extrapolation from that is that – if these kids are so dependent on digital devices, then don’t fight it, exploit it. The theory goes, that if these kids can’t put down their mobiles and iPads, then make them consume their textbooks on those same devices, make them write their essays on laptops or tablets (82% already do). Make them do their research via Google (81% do), and allow them to take note on their laptops too (70% do).
So, the story goes, make their education entirely digital. There’s sense in that – let them use the tools that they are familiar with, and the formats they are likely to use in the future. But does it assume too much about the quality of the content? Have the curricula been fully digitized and with sufficient quality and care? And what happens at exam time? All that digital preparation can end in a very analogue testing process. Would that badly hit the success rates, and harm possible future success? 

Check out the infographic here:
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

November Brainy Breakfast/Lunch & Learn!

Many experts argue that adult education has passed the point in time when we can ask learners to put away their mobile devices in educational settings. While many people see mobile devices as an enhancement to learning, some people believe it distracts from the learning environment. What is your opinion on the matter? Join Technology Services and your faculty colleagues for a discussion about the do's and don'ts of mobile device technology use in the classroom!
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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dr. Eric Cunningham presents on Active Learning Techniques

Dr. Eric Cunningham, Associate Dean for the Division of Adult Higher Education speaks out on Active Learning Techniques. Check it out here:

Check out Part Two of Dr. Eric Cunningham's Active Learning Techniques video here:
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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How to solve the great edtech challenge

March 14, 2014 Pearson

Earlier today our CEO John Fallon delivered the closing keynote address at Microsoft's Global Learning Forum. He used the platform to describe the power that technology can have to transform global education standards, why it has so far failed to live up to its potential, and why the solution calls for the world's technologists, entrepreneurs and educators to join together under a common purpose.

It is very inspiring to have the privilege of spending some time with so many talented and committed people from so many countries all around the world--all focused on tackling one of the biggest challenges facing our societies and our economies. We may all describe that challenge a little differently but we all know what it is -- can we apply technology to help us double the amount of really deep, high value learning in our societies at no greater cost?

That's  the challenge that all of us in education face, isn't it? How can we do more--and better--and most often, do it with less?

The doubling part may seem a little ambitious, but consider this. In most countries that participate in PISA-and I'd be pretty confident that this applies to all those that don't, too--if you could get all schools, with similar social demographics, even close to the highest performing comparable ones, you would comfortably achieve that goal of doubling learning outcomes. And, that, I think, is the challenge to all of us--how can technology help us to replicate educational excellence at scale? For, even in the most difficult of circumstances, it is relatively easy to find a good school or great teaching. The hard part is scaling that success across the whole school or the entire system. So, in the next few minutes, I want to try to synthesize an argument--to draw together a number of threads--that all of us are grappling with, in varying forms, around the world.

1. All member of our society now require a higher level of educational attainment--a deeper learning--than at any point in human history. 

2. That for all the great energy, investment, and innovation, so much of which is on display at this event--we are not, yet, really applying technology to meet that challenge effectively--certainly not consistently or at anything like global scale.

3. We can do it--and in some places--we are doing it. And it happens most often through some form of blended learning--where teachers, students, and data work together to create an active learning environment. 

4. For us to do it consistently, and at scale, requires all of us--governments, education authorities, educators, learners, their parents, learning companies like Pearson, global technology companies like Microsoft, edtech startups, not for profits, everybody involved--to rally around an agreed framework and a common purpose.

That framework, as Canadian educational researcher Michael Fullan and others argue, requires us to combine three trends that have emerged independently in education over the last forty years and which desperately need each other – technology, a new pedagogy, and systemic reform; and then to measure everything in terms of its efficacy – whether the learning activity really does enable us to achieve greater outcomes and a better return on our investment.
So, let’s start by agreeing how important it is that we meet this challenge.
In the 20th century we expected school systems to sort people – those who would go to university and those who wouldn’t; those who would do professional jobs; and those who would fill the semi-skilled and unskilled jobs for which minimal learning, more foundational skills, was required. In the 21st century, this isn’t good enough – morally, socially or economically. All young people need to be able to learn, to create and to do – to know important things and to be able to apply what they know in ways that are engaging and solve real-life problems.
And what’s striking from all the research into the highest performing school systems – in Singapore and Shanghai, for example – is that they do have high expectations for all their students. No excuses, no rationale for failure, but detailed strategies and plans to ensure all young people succeed.
What makes this more important than ever is that we are now in a second machine age, in which we all need to use our minds, our mental and our emotional intelligence, far more effectively. And the economic and social stakes are very high indeed. In the world’s richest country, the United States, we know that the median hourly wage of workers who can make complex inferences and evaluate subtle truths in written texts is 60 percent higher than the workers who can, at best, read relatively short texts to locate a single piece of information. And, in the world’s poorest countries, the stakes are even more fundamental – a child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to live beyond the age of five.
So, our first point is that all young people now need the thinking skills, such as how you apply literacy, numeracy and scientific knowledge. They all need intrapersonal skills, like determination, a sense of responsibility and self-worth. And they also all need the interpersonalskills – to communicate, work collaboratively, and problem solve.
This leads directly to our second point, which we all know: technology is disrupting, to use the phrase of the moment, pretty much every other activity and industry. It is transforming the way children and young people play, access information, communicate with each other and learn – and yet so far it has largely failed to transform most schools or universities or most teaching and learning in many classrooms and lecture halls. We are failing to engage many young people. Research by academics at the MIT Media Lab, for example, suggests that students’ brain activity is nearly non-existent during lectures. As professor Eric Mazur of Harvard University’s Physics department puts it, “students are more asleep in lectures than they are in bed!”  Studies from many countries show that less than 40 percent of upper secondary students are intellectually engaged at school.
And we are also failing to apply technology – consistently or at anything like sufficient scale – to improve learning outcomes. John Hattie, professor of education and director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute found, in his meta analysis, a lower than average impact of technology on learning outcomes, relative to other teaching and learning strategies. Larry Cuban, too, has documented that technology has had little impact on learning outcomes over the last fifty years – as have a growing number of other studies.
Why is this the case? Perhaps it is because, as Andreas Schliecher of the OECD, puts it: “Technology can leverage great teaching; technology can’t displace poor teaching”
The research tells us that teachers are making basic uses of technology – to find information, practice routine skills, turn in homework; they are not – yet – using it to really analyse data or information, to collaborate with peers, to use simulations, animations and the like. At least, it is not yet happening systematically or at real scale.
Now, my Dad was a teacher, and then a head teacher, all his professional life. I never once heard him use the phrase ‘personalised learning’. And if he was alive today, and I started to lecture him on the power of big data to transform learning outcomes, then I know he would look at me with some surprise and no little skepticism. But he did talk about how, in a class of thirty kids, a teacher has to find ways to engage with each of them in their own way and on their terms. Or how, in a school of hundreds of kids, it was often very hard to see the patterns – or make the connections – as to why some classes were powering ahead in some subjects or even in mastering and applying some concepts and skills but were struggling with others. And how, as the head teacher, he owed it to every child in the school, to every teacher, to draw those patterns and make those connections. He also talked about how local education authorities find it really hard to help schools to share data and expertise, best practice and insights, in ways that enabled them to do what you would take for granted in pretty much any other sphere of life: replicating excellence at scale.
I’m sure many of you would recognise the same trends. The good news, of course – our third point – is that technology is now helping us to do all these things.
In classrooms as far apart as Denmark, Canada, England, Australia, Colombia and California and many other places, teachers are deploying technology to overcome the boredom of their students and their own professional frustration. They are developing a new pedagogy, which combines learning outcomes such as literacy and numeracy with less well defined outcomes such as problem-solving, collaboration, creativity, thinking in different ways, building effective relationships and teams. As Andreas Schliecher was arguing to me earlier this week, applying technology to really hone – often over some years and always with great rigour – and then share widely the very best pedagogic approaches is something all high performing school systems around the world do really well.
And, as I know from Pearson’s own experiences, in supporting the digital learning of 70 million users around the world, we do now have the ability to make a profound impact on practice at the student, institutional, and system-wide level in education. Whether that is, for example automating the marking of homework; reducing the time, friction and cost of teaching; supporting community colleges in America to make very significant learning gains in algebra and physics and many other subjects; or teaching a generation of young Chinese professionals – the masters of “silent English” as they are often known, with top marks in grammar and vocabulary – the speaking and listening skills they need to prosper in their careers.
What’s common in all these cases – and I would bet from each of your own experiences – is that technology and big data is effective when it combines with the new pedagogies – the very best teaching practices – and is applied to drive systemic change at real scale.
So our fourth point is we need an agreed and widely applied framework that combines these three trends to deliver, around the world, far greater learning outcomes at no greater cost. As you all know, this is not as easy as it sounds. Technology entrepreneurs will find it much easier to develop digital innovations than to grapple with pedagogical considerations. Likewise, educators may grasp the new pedagogy but often struggle to design, or specify, next generation products that are irresistibly engaging and intuitive to use for digital natives. And global technology and services companies often find schools and colleges to be difficult and ‘messy’ environments in which to deploy. As the largest learning company in the world, we, like all of you, grapple with these problems every day.
Today, we primarily provide inputs into the process of education, such as a textbook, an assessment, a learning technology or platform, a course, a qualification, a high-stakes test or professional development for teachers. We put all of those ‘inputs’ in the hands of an educational leader, an experienced teacher or an enthusiastic student, and off they go. We are rarely able to predict or measure the learning outcomes that this investment of time and resource will produce. We need to change that – and, indeed, over the last decade, powered by technology, we have started to change that, with very encouraging results. But we now need to do that, in a much more systematic way, across our whole company.
So we are making some big changes right across Pearson. Every action, every decision, every process, every investment we now make is driven by an Efficacy Framework that requires us to be able to answer four key questions: What learning outcome do you aim to achieve? What evidence – what data – will you collect to measure progress? Do you have a clear plan that gives us confidence you can implement effectively? And, as we’ll always be working in partnership with other stakeholders, do we, collectively, have the capacity to deliver the desired outcome?
We stress that we are on the path to efficacy – and that our guide is incomplete. But we are committed to provide audited learning outcomes data for all our products and services by 2018. And we look forward to working with all of you to achieve our goals.
This brings me to our final point – that shared sense of purpose. As the authors of a new book put it, this second machine age does have its limitations:
“We have yet to see a truly creative computer, or an innovative or entrepreneurial one. Nor have we seen a piece of digital gear that could unite people behind a common cause, or comfort a sick child, care for a frail or injured person…or repair a bridge or a furnace.”
It is learning that gives humans the capacity to do all these things. And the brightest future of education lies in enabling teachers to do far more effectively and on a far greater scale what the best of them have always done – being an agent of change and progression. Over the years, there’s been much glib talk about how technology would “flip” the classroom, transforming the teachers’ role from being the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side.” The data and the research tell us different. Technology is just a tool; a very powerful one, but a tool all the same. And it is at its most powerful in the hands of a teacher and her or his students, enabling them to learn from each other and do much more effectively what the best of them do each day and always have done – lighting that spark, making that connection, that unlocks a world of opportunity for their students.
And so if we can combine disruptive technology, new pedagogy and systemic change effectively, we really can aspire to achieve far greater learning outcomes – yes, even to double them – to the benefit of far more of our fellow citizens, all around the world. It does require all of us to rally around a common purpose* – but I can’t think of a better one, or one that is more widely shared than this: Applying technology to help far more of our fellow citizens to make progress in their lives through learning.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March 2013 Brainy Breakfast/Lunch & Learn

Faculty: Don't forget about this month's Brainy Breakfast and Lunch & Learn! Do you wonder what apps you could be using to increase your productivity or enhance learning in the classroom? Please join us for a faculty-led conversation about how apps work in our everyday lives! Come prepared to tell us about your favorite app!

Please join us Friday, March 21, 2014:
§ Brainy Breakfast: 7:00a-8:00a: Launer 8 Conference Room
§ Lunch & Learn: 12:00p-1:00p: Launer 8 Conference Room

Meals will be provided. Please RSVP at to ensure appropriate meal planning!
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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Documentary Screening: Terms and Conditions May Apply

Please join Technology Services for a screening of the critically acclaimed data privacy documentary Terms and Conditions May Apply.

Friday, February 14, 2014
Atkins-Holman Student Commons

Admit it: you don't really read the endless terms and conditions connected to every website you visit, phone call you make, or app you download. But every day, billion-dollar corporations are learning more about your interests, your friends and family, your finances, and your secrets, and they're not only selling the information to the highest bidder, but also sharing it with the government. And you agreed to all of it. This disquieting expose demonstrates how every one of us is incrementally opting-in to a real time surveillance state, click-by-click--and what, if anything, you can do about it.
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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

SynergyNet: integrating multi-touch software in classrooms for collaborative learning

The Durham University SynergyNet  project will investigate a technology-driven interactive classroom for schools that is intended to improve the way students can collaborate in group activities.  It is a £1.5 million research project funded for four years by the EPSRC/ESRC funding councils through the Teaching and Learning Research Programme’s Technology Enhanced Learning programme .  The work is a collaboration between three of Durham University’s Departments: Computer Science,  Education and Psychology. Part of this research will involve the development of software to operate the new multi-touch technology.  All software that is developed as part of this project will be open source and so will be free to schools.

The technology behind this new vision of the classroom is based on a technology just released on the market called multi-touch.  Central to SynergyNet is a new form of desk that contains a large built-in multi-touch surface. 

Multi-touch surfaces are similar to PDAs, interactive whiteboards (IWBs) or tablet PCs in that they remove the need for a mouse or keyboard by allowing the user to interact directly with a finger or stylus.  However, unlike these technologies, multi-touch surfaces can detect simultaneous contacts by fingers or pens.  Therefore, two or more pupils can operate the desk at the same time. So a single multi-touch desk could act as a set of individual digital work spaces and/or a single large computer workspace allowing pupils both to work on their own or to cooperate on a task.  Our research has shown that increased opportunities for students’ involvement in the classroom are likely to improve attendance, attention and engagement in learning.
One of our concerns leading to the proposal to investigate the integration of multi-touch in learners’ desks is that the use of IWBs is more often associated with teacher-led classroom approaches. We believe that there are many practical reasons for this, including issues such as that:
  • the height of board may need to be different for pupils and for teachers;
  • older pupils are often less keen to leave their seats and move to the front of the class;
  • individual pupils involvement in whole-class teaching can reduce lesson pace and reduce overall engagement.
We believe that to make a real change in pedagogy it is necessary that, whenever new software is developed, careful consideration must be made about its operational use within the classroom. All our work will therefore be carefully driven by feedback from the those involved, so both teachers and pupils will be important participants within this research. 

Our vision for the classroom is that all students will have direct access to this technology at all times. Multi-touch hardware will become the technology that is embedded within learners’ desks. This means that all classroom-based activities can be supported, as needed, by technology and students can move easily between class and group activities and individual tasks. It will also bring increased opportunity for competitive activities between groups i.e. between desks, where electronic feedback could be presented on each desk to mark the progress of the student groups.

For the teacher also this technology will offer a new way of working. We envisage that in time interactive whiteboards will also offer this technology. So a teacher will be able to demonstrate how to use a desk from their presentation board. One additional feature that will be available to teachers would be the ability to monitor what is going on at each desk from a ‘teacher console’ by displaying small representations of each desk (rather like photographic images). This will enable a teacher the opportunity to monitor, at a glance, the progress of each group. A further opportunity provided by SynergyNet’s digital workspaces is for teachers to replay group actions and, thereby enabling teachers to review their teaching and adopt reflective practices or be involved in collaborative coaching.

However, the integration of multi-touch within a classroom involves a change from single (i.e. one mouse or keyboard) to simultaneous input and so it necessitates a complete redesign of the user interface of this new form of computer and this work is still very much in its infancy. The funds for this research are to develop software and a small number of applications to demonstrate and evaluate the true potential of this hardware within the classroom. The project will involve working with teachers and children of all ages to evaluate both the usability and the robustness of the developed solution within the classroom.
Progress so far has concentrated on the development an infrastructure to run the multi-touch applications and of a set of software building blocks to enable the learning content to be easily and quickly developed. A small range teaching materials are now available and these are now being run on the new multi-touch desks to investigate the impact of the technology on children’s learning.

Further Information

For further information about the educational dimensions of the project please see the SynergyNet websiteMore information about the project can also be found on the leaflet prepared by the Technology Enhanced Learning Research Group.

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