These are my notes from Tom Vander Ark‘s keynote presentation at the Oklahoma State Department of Education Innovations 2011 Conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on July 8, 2011. MY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS. Tom’s blog is www.edreformer.com.

Tom Vander Ark at Innovation 2011

Tom started by joking he’s here with a contingent from Seattle looking for something they lost… (Seattle SuperSonics)

The Pivot to Personal Digital Learning: Digital Learning NOW!

Remember the first line of M. Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Traveled”
– first sentence: Life is difficult.
– 1st chapter: Peck talks about love, defines love as extending yourself to benefit another
– that’s the best definition I’ve ever read of teaching

We are here to talk about digital learning
– we’ll talk about improvement levers
– how this will happen (blended learning)
– implications for school leaders

I want to acknowledge you had a tough last year, and have a touch job
– I think it’s gotten even more difficult in the past few years

School leaders can influence seven key things:
1- culture
2- goals
3- instruction
4- hiring
5- materials
6- parents
7- partners

Culture is at the top of this list: #1 attribute that sets about extra-ordinary schools is culture
– you get a sense of this ethos in the first 30 seconds in an extraordinary school
– sense of goals and shared aspirations are key in this

instruction is the heart of the matter

While your district may have more control than you do over curriculum, when it comes to MATERIALS there are many ways you can supplement that
– digital supplemental resources

But you are stuck in an obsolete model
… based on time not learning
… based on cohorts not learners
… with limited leverage

I think we can do better: we can invent better ways to do school that work better for teachers and kits

Shift from batch-print to personal-digital

batch-print:
– age cohorts
– textbooks
– sequential
– annual tests
– institutions
– teachers

personal digital:
– individual students
– digital content
– adaptive
– instant feedback
– networks
– teams

We are living through one of the most important transitions in human history
– for thousands of years we lived in oral traditions and print-based traditions
– now we are shifting to learning predominantly through digital media

Almost anyone can learn anything, anywhere now for free or cheaply is extraordinary
– if you have a broadband connection you can learn almost anything, that changes anything: Kahn Academy is an example

Customization

kids will learn more
– adaptive content
– instant feedback
– personalized guidance

Kids can move at their own pace
– demonstrated competence
– rolling enrollment, money follows the student

Education driven by:
– learner profile
– smart recommendation engines

Students will learn more per hour in this blended learning environment

School of One” is a great pilot example in New York where each student has a “customized playlist” for each subject, for each day
– that can be a powerful way to build knowledge and skills

Persistence: Exploit game strategies

Passion: exploit interests, bring your passion!

We have learned so much the last few years from casual games
– designers are so good at ‘setting the hook’

some of the most important breakthroughs

We need kids to work harder: to write more, to do more problem solving
– we need to be smarter about building perseverent behaviors

We can do a better job making school less boring
– school network: Big Picture – http://www.bigpicture.org/
– they put passion and interest at the center of their school design

2 example projects:

UK-game Manga High
– all games are free, there are about 8 that teach pre-algebra skills

Edmodo is a company I helped start a few years ago
– about 2 million students using it now
– helping teachers customize instruction

I call what the learning environment will look like in the next five years: Blended Learning
– blended learning is an intentional shift for at least a portion of the student day to an online learning environment to boost learning and operating productivity
– most US students will learn in a blended environments in this decade
– low-cost, blended formats offer a chance to reach “the next billion”

blended learning is AT LEAST as important as clean tech and bio-tech in changing the world today

Read “The Rise of Blended Learning” by the Innosight Institute, best summary of innovative school models around the country

School One: Personalized Playlists
plus
Project based learning

I chaired “Digital Learning NOW” project last year with Gov Job Bush and Bob Wise
– 100 digital learning council members
– rapid virtual policy development process
– report released Dec 2010
– will release state scorecard report in Oct 2011
www.digitallearningnow.com

assumptions
– all students are digital learners
– customized learning
– competency-based
– choice of providers
– all students have access

controversial piece: funding should follow the student to create incentives for quality and innovation
– funding should become more performance based
– encourage students to achieve, graduate, and innovation
– infrastructure supports digital learning

Example is Florida Virtual School

Infrastructure piece is complicated and expensive: we need to work together to promote this shift to personal, digital learning

Development of Race to the Top-funded assessments is very important right now
– I’ve been obsessed with this on my blog the last few months
– ESCA is going to be a weak bill, we won’t have an NCLB
– NCLB framed American education for the last decade
– ESCA won’t do that, state policies will be more important
– the common core state standards and the new tests which reflect those will be a big deal
– in at least 40 states we will have new standards and new tests, those will be the ‘frame’ for American public education for the next decade

Some of us have been worried those tests will not be good enough
– 60 of us signed a letter on June 30, that is an important letter to read
– these tests are a REAL big deal
– those tests will be ONLINE and will go live in 2014
– we only have a few years to get ready for online assessments

states can’t save enough money going from print to digital to give all students a digital tablet
– if you shift from textbooks to digital results, and to online tests, you can save enough money to give every kid a tablet computer
– they are cheap enough to be $20 per month in cost
– you can make a financial case just on the transition
– you can ‘lift the floor’ – give every student in your district access to digital resources

this is a difficult transition
– this will require states and districts to build a plan and phase this in

4 blended pilots you should start in September, in 60 days
1- 6-10 Math (every kid learning at their own level, in a learning lab)
2- AP, dual enrollment, STEM (offer hard to staff courses virtually)
3- Elementary learning lab (Rocketship are best elementary schools in CA, are all high poverty, they are top scoring elementary schools, every day each student has a 2 day targeted instruction lab time)
4- Special services (demonstrated power of distributed staffing, teachers working remotely, speech therapy is an example, I have vendor friends providing these services)

This is a big deal: blended learning, open resources
– this IS going to change the world

Story of visiting Nairobi
– kids getting surprisingly good education in one of the worst slums

My investment fund is working with Bridge International to develop schools in these slums
– $3.50 per month we are giving these kids an education pretty close in quality to what we provide in urban American elementary schools
– I’m fixated on providing that in high school too

We can create school formats in the toughest slums in the world and deliver a world class education for these kids

This will transform educational opportunities in Oklahoma, and in other parts of the planet
– I am so excited about the power of digital learning

Janet Barresi: visited “Carpe Diem” school in Yuma, Arizona
– school staffed by six teachers, had the highest math scores in the state of Arizona

MY THOUGHTS: I’M VERY GLAD TO BE ABLE TO HEAR TOM ARTICULATE THIS VISION AND GET MORE INSIGHT INTO WHERE JANET AND OUR OTHER STATE LEADERS WANT TO TAKE OKLAHOMA SCHOOLS. THIS IS AN AGENDA WHICH NEEDS TO BE MORE CLEARLY ARTICULATED, EXPLAINED, DEBATED, AND REFINED. I’M NOT SURE WE WANT ALL OUR ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS STAFFED BY JUST SIX ADULTS, BUT WE DO NEED TO INNOVATE AND THINK DIFFERENTLY ABOUT HOW WE PROVIDE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES IN OUR NATION. I’M ENTHUSED BY A LOT OF THE FOCUS ON BLENDED LEARNING AND DIGITAL ACCESS. I DIDN’T HEAR MUCH AT ALL ABOUT STUDENTS CREATING DIGITAL CONTENT, HOWEVER. I’LL REFLECT MORE ON THIS LATER. GREAT PRESO, THANKS TO THE OKLAHOMA SDE FOR BRINGING TOM TO OUR STATE AND CONFERENCE!

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  • http://twitter.com/cvanderark Caroline Vander Ark

    Thanks for the recap of Tom’s speech. Glad to hear you enjoyed it. If you are ever interested in guest blogging for us shoot me an email at caroline gettingsmart.com
    Cheers!

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