Academy helps teachers integrate technology in classroom

Area teachers received training on integrating new technologies into the classroom during Centenary Colleges summer teachers academy.

Area teachers received training on integrating new technologies into the classroom during Centenary College's summer teachers' academy.


Teachers are always learning, and Centenary College recently hosted a summer teachers’ academy that served that goal well.

Attendees had the opportunity to learn to engage students with Smartboard, Senteo and iPod interactive technologies and become better equipped to educate, inspire and provide tools necessary for students to become knowledgeable and excited about environmental issues.

Participants had the opportunity to choose one of four workshops and spend three days of hands-on activities learning how to use and integrate technology in the classroom.

Individuals who chose the “Go Smartboarding! Workshop” learned beginning Smartboard skills. Those who chose “Field-Based Learning in Science using iPods and Podcasts” option were provided with an introduction to podcasting and the production of podcasts for classroom use. Teachers enrolled in “Biodiversity, Pollution & Global Climate Change” learned about the basics of climate change and associated controversies and myths. “Math Assessment for the 21st Century” covered trends in math including authentic assessment and continuous assessment.

“This is the second year that we have held this academy, and this time we had over 40 teachers join us from all over Warren Sussex, Morris and Hunterdon counties,” says Dr. Simon Saba, assistant professor of Education at Centenary, who spearheaded this opportunity. “The feedback that I received was extremely positive. Most were enthusiastic about bringing what they learned into the classroom come September.”

Posted by Melissa on September 1st, 2009 under DEL Newsletter • No Comments

Momentum Building on STEM Education



As part of the Obama administration’s emphasis on bringing education into the 21st century, it comes as no surprise that policy makers have trained their focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education as a way to give more students, especially girls and minorities, stronger global skills. And with this increased focus, some education experts say momentum is building for more recognition of the “T” and “E” in STEM–technology and engineering, two subjects often overlooked.

In fact, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), part of the National Research Council, recently completed a report that surveys the extent and nature of efforts to teach engineering to K-12 students in the United States. The report is set to be released Sept. 8.

The report, “Engineering in K-12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects,” defines what engineering is, because many people don’t understand much about the career, and also discusses research and evidence on the impact of engineering education on areas such as improved science and math learning and improved technological literacy, said Greg Pearson, an NAE program officer and the study’s leader.

Also covered in the report are what engineering concepts children are able to understand, and at what age, along with a detailed analysis of about 15 curriculum projects identified by the study team, which also examined how those different curricula treat engineering.

“One of the findings is that discussions of STEM tend to be focused on science, sometimes math, rarely both together–usually they’re siloed, and the T and especially the E are really just left out of the discussion in policy, education, and classroom practice,” Pearson said.

“Even though we use that acronym, in terms of what’s really happening and what people really mean, engineering is the silent letter.”

Since 1990, NAE estimates that 6 million U.S. students have been exposed to formal engineering in the classroom, along with about 18,000 teachers who have had formal training to teach engineering concepts.

But at the same time, Pearson said, engineering doesn’t have a formal place in the school day the way math and science do, and there are no learning or content standards the way there are for math, science, history, and other subject areas.

The study identifies a handful of countries that offer some kind of formal engineering education prior to college and examines those systems.

“A lot of things are missing, but these efforts are moving ahead,” Pearson said.

Although the report isn’t a guide for teachers, it does discuss the barriers to including engineering in schools and suggests different ways to approach the issue.

And the committee does not recommend one approach over another.

“For each school or each circumstance, certain approaches may make more sense than others,” Pearson said.

In an effort to strengthen STEM education throughout the nation, the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Research and Science Education Subcommittee held a recent hearing to examine the efforts of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) under then-superintendent (now U.S. Secretary of Education) Arne Duncan’s leadership–and the collaboration Duncan fostered among the private, public, and nonprofit sectors.

“In hearings and reports, we have repeatedly heard that innovation is key to maintaining a high standard of living for all Americans, and that we need more teachers and more graduates in the STEM fields if we want our country to continue to lead in the global economy,” said Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill. “Reform of our STEM education system will require coordination on multiple fronts and across many diverse stakeholders.”

Donald Wink, the University of Illinois at Chicago’s director of undergraduate studies in chemistry and director of graduate studies with the Learning Sciences Research Institute, said K-12 school systems and universities are part of a cycle.

“Students educated in K-12…move on for more specific training in higher education,” he said. “The colleges and universities have the opportunity to educate these students further, in specific disciplines, so those students are able to participate in health science careers. In addition, colleges and universities affect K-12 education by producing teachers….Further, colleges and universities work with existing teachers, both to provide deeper training in current topics in…STEM education and to receive from those teachers a better understanding of the actual issues that matter in K-12 STEM classrooms.”

Schools must implement rigorous and open learning programs to make STEM teaching effective, Wink said, in addition to having the technology appropriate for teaching what is current and relevant in these fields. And teachers should have thorough training as well, because lack of content knowledge or lack of experience with STEM can limit a teacher’s ability to fully educate students.

With a grant from the National Science Foundation, CPS created CUSP (Chicago Urban Systemic Program), a comprehensive science and math program aimed at reforming the district’s STEM teaching through teacher professional development. Local universities created content-rich courses that enabled teachers to earn state endorsements in mathematics and science. The program ran from 2000 to 2006. Now, most local colleges and universities offer courses that help teachers supplement their teaching certificates with content-based credentials.

“We work with local museums and community groups to create after-school clubs focused on science and mathematics; these programs often provide the spark that ignites a student’s interest in STEM disciplines,” said Michael Lach, teaching and learning officer at CPS. The district also creates student internship programs and other resources, all of which connect students and teachers to real-life STEM professionals.

The percentage of CPS students who met or exceeded science standards on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) increased from 43 percent in 2001 to 63.3 percent in 2006, then fell slightly to 62.6 in 2008.

Just 34.8 percent of CPS students met or exceeded ISAT math standards in 2001, but that figure rose to 64 percent in 2006, 68.6 percent in 2007, and 70.6 percent in 2008.

The subcommittee held a separate hearing on how to further involve girls in STEM learning and activities.

While women are active participants in some STEM disciplines, other areas show room for improvement. According to the National Science Foundation, although women earned more than half of all science and engineering bachelor’s degrees in 2006, they earned only about 20 percent of degrees in engineering, computer science, and physics.

Data from the National Association of Educational Progress reveal a small but persistent gap in performance within STEM education between boys and girls in primary and secondary schools–less than one percent for math and less than three percent for science. Many researchers believe issues such as self-confidence and perceived expectations negatively affect the achievement of girls on standardized tests.

According to 2009 figures from the National Center for Women and Information Technology, just 17 percent of Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science test-takers in 2008 were female. Girls represented 51 percent of AP Calculus test-takers and 56 percent of overall AP test-takers.

In early June, Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., introduced the STEM Education Coordination Act of 2009. Co-sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the bill would ensure that existing STEM education resources are employed efficiently and effectively through greater coordination at the federal level.

The legislation would establish a committee, under the National Science and Technology Council, which would be responsible for coordinating federal STEM education programs and initiatives, including programs under the National Science Foundation and NASA. It also would develop, implement, and update a five-year STEM education achievement plan, including objectives and metrics for assessment, as well as maintaining an inventory of federally sponsored STEM education programs and activities.

The committee would produce an annual report that includes a description of STEM activities and education programs, funding levels for those programs, and progress updates.

Federal officials, as well as officials from other states, will be watching a new effort in Maryland to boost STEM education to see what they might learn.

All Maryland high school graduates would be prepared for college-level math and science courses, and the state’s universities would triple their production of teachers in those fields, under a five-year, $72 million plan unveiled Aug. 6 by a state task force appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley. The plan also calls for a 40-percent increase in the number of STEM graduates produced by state universities and for a sweeping effort to convert research and development into jobs (see “Maryland plans to boost math, science learning)

The National Science Foundation’s involvement in STEM promotion extends into higher education as well as K-12. NSF’s Innovation through Institutional Integration (I3) program attempts to link institutions’ NSF-funded STEM education projects and to leverage their collective strengths.

In 2008, the six I3 institutions were Georgia Tech, Louisiana State University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Washington, the University of Florida, and Hawaii’s Kapiolani Community College.

I3 promotes increased collaboration within and among institutions and addresses important initiatives, including broader participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields and the integration of research and education.

The I3 project at Louisiana State University will help students in their progress toward advanced degrees, create an interdisciplinary curriculum in materials engineering and science, and develop a mentoring ladder system involving faculty members, graduate and undergraduate students, and high school teachers and students.

The University of Colorado at Boulder’s I3 project picks up on recommendations made in the influential report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” to identify three broad goals: transforming STEM education, building a community of education research within science departments, and developing future educators. Toward that end, the university is using I3 funding to build a Center for STEM Education Research and Transformation that integrates STEM education projects across the campus. The center links more than eight traditional departments in three colleges and schools, including the schools of education and engineering and the departments of life sciences, mathematics, and physical sciences. Each department retains its identity, but the center provides an infrastructure for bringing together key ideas and sharing strategies and results.

Through various programs, faculty in Boulder’s School of Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering are partnering with faculty in the School of Education to recruit, prepare, and support the next generation of STEM teachers.

A June workshop at Arizona State University, meanwhile, introduced underrepresented youth to STEM disciplines and career pathways.

Participants in the summer research internship, which is an extension of an NSF-funded research and community collaboration, began their exploration by programming the TI-84 graphing calculator, in conjunction with the TI-robot chassis, to navigate student-constructed obstacles autonomously.

Participants then programmed the TI calculator robot to draw specific geometric patterns on 2-by-2 foot whiteboards. To accomplish this task, besides programming the calculator, they had to design and construct a pen holder using found objects that could be attached to the TI robot.

Wendy Garcia, 14, of Carson Junior High, who wants to be an engineer, was excited about using the calculator.

“I think it is pretty fun,’ Garcia said. “We get to use the calculators as robots and also collect data from the outside world. I didn’t think you could do so much with it.”

Garcia attached a pen to the calculator and manipulated it to draw a circle and a triangle.

“You think it is impossible, but when you put it to work, it makes sense,” she said.

The next phase of the workshop gave students an opportunity to explore graphs of distance versus time and velocity versus time using remote-controlled cars and the Calculator-Based Ranger (CBR) attached to the graphing calculator. Students were charged with manipulating their remote-controlled cars to match distance-versus-time and velocity-versus-time graphs stored in the CBR and displayed on the TI-84 graphing calculator.

“They learn to match the graph through trial and error,” said Jaime Gephart, an eighth and ninth grade science teacher at Powell Junior High. “We teach these concepts in ninth grade, but for a lot of students, they are very hard to understand. It seems hard until they do it.”

Posted by Melissa on September 1st, 2009 under DEL Newsletter • No Comments

Textbook Publisher to Rent to College Students


By: Tamar Lewin

In the rapidly evolving college textbook market, one of the nation’s largest textbook publishers, Cengage Learning, announced Thursday that it would start renting books to students this year, at 40 percent to 70 percent of the sale price.

Students who choose Cengage’s rental option will get immediate access to the first chapter of the book electronically, in e-book format, and will have a choice of shipping options for the printed book. When the rental term — 60, 90 or 130 days — is over, students can either return the textbook or buy it.

With the growing competition from online used-book sales, digital texts and new Internet textbook-rental businesses like Chegg and BookRenter, other publishers and college bookstores are also edging toward rentals.

Follett Higher Education Group, which manages more than 850 college bookstores, is starting a pilot rental program this fall at about a dozen stores, including those at the State University at Buffalo, Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan, and California State University at Sacramento. The stores will offer about 20 percent of their titles for rent, charging 42.5 percent of the purchase price.

With college textbooks often costing more than $100 apiece, students spend an average of $700 to $1,100 a year, representing one of their biggest expenses after tuition and room and board. Many students try to save by buying used books or ordering books from overseas, where they can often cost half the domestic price. Many students also resell textbooks at the end of the academic year, feeding the used-book market.

Besides giving students a new option, rentals give both publishers and textbook authors a way to continue earning money from their books after the first sale, something they do not get from the sale of used textbooks.

“Our authors will get royalties on second and third rentals, just as they would on a first sale,” said Ronald G. Dunn, president and chief executive of Cengage, formerly Thomson Learning. “There’s a tremendous amount of activity around rentals now, but we’re the first higher-education publisher to move in this direction.”

Cengage’s rental business will begin with several hundred titles this year, and then expand, Mr. Dunn said.

“The Internet has really changed everything in terms of our abilities to reach customers in different ways,” he said. “Our strategy has been to offer as many choices as we can, in terms of price points and different kinds of products. So if they choose not to buy the printed book, they can rent it, just as we already offer them the choice to buy an e-book, or a chapter.”

McGraw-Hill is taking a different route into rentals, through a partnership with Chegg, a fast-growing online textbook-rental business. Under an agreement that is to be announced soon, McGraw-Hill will supply 25 of its books to Chegg, in return for a portion of the rental revenue.

Ed Stanford, the president of McGraw-Hill Higher Education, would not disclose what share of each Chegg rental his company would get.

“It’s an opportunity to explore a different model that we think has some real promise,” Mr. Stanford said. “We’re not a retailer of our textbooks, so we’re not trying to play the retail role. But we are also talking to large college bookstores who are interested in rentals as an option. It’s of great interest to us as a way that we could begin to share the revenues after the first sale.”

A few college bookstores have been offering rentals for years, and many more are moving in that direction.

“There’s a changing climate in the industry, with all the pressures on the costs of higher education,” said Elio Distaola, of Follett. “The reason we’re doing the rental pilot is just to see the viability of the program.”

Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, too, is starting a pilot rental program at three of its 624 college bookstores this fall.

“I think it could very well end up being a standard offering,” said Patrick Maloney, the executive vice president. “We’re renting books at 35 percent of the list price, and it’s only for hardcover texts, because paperbacks would get beaten up too fast. The schools assist us with collecting the books at the end, as they do with library books. The other option, taking the student’s credit card and billing it if the book wasn’t returned, didn’t seem very user-friendly.”

Mr. Maloney said the rental program would have been offered at more colleges and universities, if more faculty members had been willing to commit to using the same textbook for at least two years.

“We had a lot of discussions with schools, but in one case, they wanted to get 10 faculty members to sign on, and they couldn’t get any,” Mr. Maloney said.

Since a federal report four years ago found that textbook prices nearly tripled from 1986 to 2004 — rising an average of 6 percent a year, twice the inflation rate — Congress and state legislators have been working to contain textbook costs.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act, passed last year, included $10 million for grants to support textbook rental pilot programs; according to Charles Schmidt of the National Association of College Stores, more than 20 college bookstores have applied for grants.

Posted by Melissa on September 1st, 2009 under DEL Newsletter • No Comments

Trying to Learn How Learning Works


By: Dan Vergano

Is our children learning? Bad grammar, but still a good question.

Long before President George W. Bush posed his ungrammatical query on the 2000 campaign trail, debate simmered over school testing, vouchers and teaching. And just like in a lot of modern debates, scientists have quietly tackled the underlying questions, offering up new tools, new approaches and even a new discipline, while the political folks argue away.

“New insights from many different fields are converging to create a new science of learning that may transform educational practices,” begins a report led by Andrew Meltzoff of the University of Washington in Seattle. The review in the current Science magazine makes the case for psychologists, neuroscientists, roboticists and teachers combining to quietly create a new field that combines everything from how brains grow to how classrooms work into a new kind of learning research.

For example, a companion study in the current Science by John Gabrieli of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, illustrates how neuroscience and education researchers have teamed up to tackle dyslexia, a difficulty with reading and vocabulary that afflicts 5% to 17% of children. Behavioral and brain measures can now identify dyslexic tendencies in infants, and lead to teaching that can “prevent dyslexia from occurring in the majority of children who would otherwise develop dyslexia,” according to the study.

Politicians and educators increasingly worry about learning for all children, citing tests like the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), which found U.S. 4th and 8th graders trailing some Asian and European peers in science and math. In April, President Obama called on National Academy of Sciences members to “think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering” and announced an initiative to raise those TIMSS scores.

So, how could that work? Three principles, “across a range of areas and ages” come across in the new learning research:

•Learning is computational. Even infants and toddlers possess innate capabilities to see and hear patterns, something psychologists doubted decades ago. Reinforcing those capabilities by teaching patterns early might sharpen kid’s brains.

•Learning is social. People, even infants, learn better through social cues. We “most readily learn and re-enact an event when it is produced by a person,” Meltzoff and colleagues write. “Social factors also play a role in life-long learning — new social technologies (for example, text messaging, Facebook, and Twitter) tap humans’ drive for social communication,” they add.

•Learning is brain-circuitry driven. Brain cells fired up in both perception and action overlap in people, which allows students to identify with their teachers and speed learning.

“Young learn best from people in human social interaction. But one of the fundamental characteristics of the human mind is our flexibility and our inventiveness — our capacity to invent tools to amplify our own sensory and motor abilities,” Meltzoff says, by e-mail. So, the goal for educators in this century is to create teaching tools, robots, computer programs science fairs or whatever that produce the same benefits of the very best teaching situation, one-to-one tutoring.

Now where does that leave older students and adults in an era of retraining? One interesting effort to harness so-called social media is Scitable, a free science library and Internet forum website that teaches college-level genetics, offered by the Nature publishing group. Anyone can join and often entire classes are signed up at colleges to hand around and discuss work.

“We only had a limited time in class, so we had to concentrate on key questions,” says Erik Lykken, a beginning PhD student in immunology at Duke University, who was signed up, somewhat reluctantly, for Scitable in a genetics seminar earlier this year. “Scitable worked really well to bring everyone up on the background, and to agree on those key questions before class.”

The site offers experts to answer questions from students and is moderated to keep the crazy question level down. “I have never really encountered a resource quite like this one that combines both knowledge and questions,” Lykken says.

He may soon.

Social network “technology allows students to tap a ‘distributed knowledge base’ — they can engage in collaborative learning and inform each other, even work in groups, at great distances,” Meltzoff says. “This is great preparation for the ‘real world’ in the 21st Century, because the ‘real world’ now includes technology.”

Of course, infants don’t need a web browser or a Facebook account, Meltzoff adds. “Very young children learn socially and need people, not technology to thrive. After infancy, the world of technology opens up and they expand to use the new tools.”

Posted by Melissa on September 1st, 2009 under DEL Newsletter • No Comments

Students Help Program Science Computer Game



Middle and high school students spent a little more than four weeks this summer at McKinley Technical High School in Washington, D.C., developing the programming and modeling for a prototype of an educational computer game called Immune Attack 3.0.

Last year the students used the free educational game to learn, by aiming to make science fun and engaging for students. This year, they’re putting their programming and modeling skills to the test to help the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) update the game.

“Lots of schools are using games to teach their students,” said Rick Kelsey, director of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education at McKinley. “But this year we’re taking it a step further. The new version of the game will be played by students all over the country.”

The program was set up more like a summer job than summer school, said Chris Johnson, a modeling instructor at McKinley’s summer youth program.

“The programming department had to work with the modeling department and make sure that everything was making sense and would work together. So they’re getting real-world skills,” he said.

Mitchell Holmes, a McKinley student who will be entering the 10th grade this year, said he knew he wanted to be part of the program, because he hopes to enter a career in graphic design when he finishes his schooling. This was his first year working with the “Be the Game” program headed by Kelsey, a summer program that is funded by the Mayor’s Summer Youth Program.

“Immune Attack” is a three-dimensional game that provides scientifically accurate simulations of the immune system, with imagery designed by medical illustrators. Players navigate a nanobot through 3-D blood vessels and connective tissue in an attempt to save an ailing patient by retraining her non-functional immune cells.

McKinley students worked with Melanie Stegman, program manager of learning technologies with FAS, who met with the instructors and students to determine the design of the game. She said she hoped that Immune Attack 3.0 got the students interested in concepts such as what chemotherapy looks like and how mitochondria move.

“It’s the curiosity that you need to get them to want to learn. … Plus, in this game, the whole point is to save a life–not to kill it,” she said, alluding to the violence seen in other video games.

In programming and modeling for Immune Attack 3.0, both the students and college-aged instructors had to learn more about the immune system.

“I can’t lie. I learned so much this summer,” Johnson said. “We had to use Google and Wikipedia a lot so we could learn what things looked like, and since we did 3-D animation as well, we needed to know how things moved.”

Ciara Belle, a programming instructor, said she and her students had to learn about the neurological and respiratory systems to make sure the programming they created made sense. The programming students created four mini-games that will be used within Immune Attack 3.0.

“If you click on objects and text pops up, you can learn the details” about different parts of a cell, for example, Johnson said. “But if you play a mini-game, there’s more incentive to learn. It keeps the kids engaged more.”

Kelsey said the point of the program, and what they do at McKinley in general, is to expose inner-city children to technology from a young age.

“If you don’t have technology skills, there’s not a job out there for you,” he said. “So they leave here with 21st-century, college-level skills by participating in something we wouldn’t be able to do during the school year.”

Posted by Melissa on September 1st, 2009 under DEL Newsletter • No Comments

Learning Gets Social


By: Tony Bingham

The learning profession has a history of dancing around the subject of informal learning. You might think, “We’ve been talking about it forever and have even dabbled in it. Our worlds aren’t crumbling. I am really busy and don’t have the time or the energy to get involved in informal learning.” But if we don’t respond or take action now, we risk becoming irrelevant.

In the May issue of T+D, Tony Karrer, an e-learning technologist and CEO of TechEmpower, encouraged companies to start adapting to the current trend in informal learning because otherwise, they will find themselves marginalized in the business.

Our job, our focus, and our creative energy must include getting our hands around informal learning.

To really understand the power of informal learning, we have to learn more about a key driver for it: the Millennial generation, born between 1977 and 1997. To understand this generation, let’s look at the themes in one of Don Tapscott’s books, Grown Up Digital.

Understanding Net Gen’ers

Tapscott refers to the Millennials or Gen Yers as the Net Generation or “Net Gens” based on their defining characteristic: the network. In his book, he explains that technology is like air to them. That’s a critical point to remember as we learn how they work, learn, collaborate, and live.

The Net Gens are the largest generation ever. And the eldest in this generation are 32 years old, so we’re already seeing the impact in the workplace. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the size of the workforce in the United States in 2014 will be roughly 162 million. Estimates suggest that the Net Gens will make up a whopping 47 percent of the workforce in 2014—that’s less than five years away!

We’re all aware of the stereotypes of this generation: they can’t make a decision, don’t want to “pay their dues,” ignore hours and dress codes, need constant feedback, their parents are involved in everything, and so on.

But as Tapscott notes in his book, “The evidence is strong that they are the smartest generation ever. Raw IQ scores are climbing by three points a decade since World War II, and they have been increasing across racial, income, and regional boundaries.”

He continues, “This generation thinks it’s cool to be smart, and they see themselves as an essential part of the world’s future success. When he asked his global sample of thousands of Net Gens, “Which would you rather be: smart or good looking?” seven out of 10 chose having smarts.

When it comes to the workplace, Tapscott notes: “As employees and managers, the Net Generation is approaching work collaboratively, collapsing the rigid hierarchy and forcing organizations to rethink how they recruit, compensate, develop, and supervise talent.” He believes that the very idea of management is changing with Net Gens. In education, they are forcing a change in the model, from a teacher-focused approach based on instruction, to a student-focused model based on collaboration.

Tapscott asserts: “The bottom line is this: if you understand the Net Generation, you will understand the future. You will also understand how our institutions and society need to change today.” That is very compelling.

Let’s look at another source of data on the impact of technology. In their book, Groundswell, authors Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff provide this example: “More than a million viewers have watched a YouTube video posted by law student Brian Finkelstein, who filmed a Comcast technician who fell asleep on his couch in 2006, waiting on hold for help from the Comcast home office to fix an Internet problem…

“What happened to these companies will happen to you,” they state. “Your company’s customers are talking about your brand right now on MySpace, probably in ways you haven’t approved…your support representatives’ conversations with customers will show up on YouTube, and so will your TV commercials, intercut with sarcastic commentary…if your CEO has any hair left, he or she is going to tear it out and then ask for your help in taming this torrent of people expressing themselves.”

Li and Bernoff go on to warn, “But this movement can’t be tamed. It comes from a thousand sources and washes over traditional business like a flood. And, like a flood, it can’t be stopped in any one place. Often it can’t be stopped at all.”

The authors see a fundamental change in behavior, and they define a groundswell as, “A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.” They also add that “the groundswell trend is not a flash in the pan. This is an important, irreversible, completely different way for people to relate to companies and to each other.”

The groundswell trend also includes social networks like MySpace and Facebook. “And, while you can’t stop it, you can understand it,” Li and Bernoff assert. “You can not only live with it, you can thrive in it. That’s the point of this book.”

Those are some powerful statements, and ones that have huge potential implications for learning. But, as Li and Bernoff say, you can not only live with this, you can thrive in it.

So why is this happening now? The authors see the collision of three forces—people, technology, and economics—and they see these trends (people’s desire to connect, new interactive technologies, and online economics) as creating a new era. We also have a generation of people entering the workforce who don’t know any other way; this is the way they’ve always done it. Are you ready for them?

Let’s look at their expectations for work and how that affects you and your organizations. Tapscott writes, “In this war for talent, employers are going to have to understand the key Net Gen norms if they want to hire them, and keep them. They want the freedom to work when and where they want, and the freedom to enjoy work and family life … the Net Gens mix work with their personal lives.” I think we’re seeing this for just about all workers today. The line between work and personal is very gray.

Tapscott discusses other expectations of Net Gens in his book Grown Up Digital:

  • They want customization—this is what they’re used to.
  • They want to be managed as individuals, not as a big group. This means individualized learning and development opportunities, project-based role descriptions, a lot of feedback on their performance, and open and regular dialogues with their manager.
  • Integrity and transparency are essential to this generation. This is how their virtual communities operate.
  • They value collaboration. They are not turned on by climbing the corporate ladder. They demand challenging work and want to achieve with other people. This is how they get things done.
  • Entertainment is very important. They want work to be fun, and they see work and fun as the same thing.

(More information about Tapscott’s other norms can be found in Grown Up Digital.)

Was there a Net Gen norm about classroom training on that list? No. Is formal learning dead? Of course not. Informal learning will not eliminate traditional formal learning. Certification, compliance, and deep learning will continue to be formal because the structure is required.

In the May 2009 issue of this magazine, Josh Bersin of Bersin and Associates said it well: “It’s not informal learning taking over everything; it’s a modernization of the learning function.”

Rough estimates indicate that 80 percent of learning is informal and 20 percent is formal.

Karie Willyerd, vice president and chief learning officer for Sun Microsystems explains the huge opportunity the profession has in informal learning: “One of the things that has happened is that we have focused so much on the 10 percent [formal learning] that we abdicated the 70 percent [informal learning]. If the learning organization doesn’t get into that 70 percent and use social media, they’re going to get left behind. They’re going to become irrelevant because people are going to be able to post and share knowledge with one another without the learning function. It’s a call to action for learning to become really involved in social media in order to facilitate and enable informal learning. And that’s a really exciting place for the learning profession to be because what you are capturing, then, is the performance of an organization.”

Doesn’t it seem reasonable that if most of the learning occurring within an organization is informal, you should be involved?

Potential of informal learning and Web 2.0

Let’s look deeper at informal learning. Are we tapping its real potential?

ASTD and i4cp (Institute for Corporate Productivity) conducted research on informal learning to answer that question. To start, we wanted to know how much informal learning was actually occurring in organizations:

  • 98 percent of the respondents saw that it was occurring to some extent, 34 percent said to a high extent, and 2 percent said that it wasn’t occurring.
  • More than 56 percent expect it to increase over the next three years.
  • 98 percent of those surveyed say that informal learning enhances employee performance, and 39 percent of respondents said it is enhancing employee performance to a high extent.

When we asked what percentage of the training budget is allocated to informal learning, 36 percent dedicate no money to informal learning, and 78 percent dedicate 10 percent or less of the training budget to it.

This statistic is frightening to me because between 70 and 90 percent of learning occurring in organizations is informal, yet most of the money is allocated to formal learning. This must change if we are to be successful in the future.

Do you think that having the learning function driving informal learning would be good for you professionally and for your organization? Absolutely. This research shows that the learning profession has a great opportunity to make an impact with informal learning.

Let’s talk about Web 2.0 technologies, how the Net Gens are using those technologies, and the impact those technologies are having within organizations. Web 2.0 technologies are enablers. They are the tools that support collaboration and social learning, but they don’t cause it to automatically happen.

Working in partnership with i4cp, ASTD commissioned a Web 2.0 study, which was sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton. The purpose of the study was to determine how, why, to what degree, and with what success organizations are using Web 2.0 technologies in learning functions. Reasons for adopting Web 2.0 include

  • improving knowledge sharing
  • fostering learning
  • providing more informal learning opportunities
  • improving communication
  • finding resources more easily
  • boosting collaboration
  • building organizational relationships.

Data from the study revealed that only a small minority of companies are using Web 2.0 technologies in learning. And this is not the first study to find that Web 2.0 technologies are not yet widely adopted in organizations. Eighty-seven percent of respondents predicted that during the next three years, their organizations will be more likely to use Web 2.0 technologies in the learning function.

A driver for this may be explained by a 2008 AIIM survey. It found that among the 441 IT, executive, C-level, and other respondents, less than half said that they fully understood technologies such as RSS, podcasting, social networking, and mash-ups. It also found that 59 percent of the respondents considered a lack of understanding to be the primary impediment to implementing Web 2.0 technologies.

Let’s look at the effectiveness of Web 2.0 in the ASTD study. Ninety-five percent of those surveyed indicate that the technology is effective, though the highest marks for it are not really that high. I think this is a reflection of not knowing how to use the technologies, and the associated fear of them.

The Net Gens are driving informal learning, which, as we’ve seen through the research, does not have the financial commitment nor the appropriate involvement of the learning organization, at least not yet.

There has been an enormous increase in people who want to share their expertise, opinions, and time through collaborative technologies, and these technologies are being adopted by society on a global scale as well as within our individual learning organizations. It is a groundswell as Li and Bernoff have described, and it’s unstoppable, with huge opportunities available to those who know how to leverage it.

The use of collaborative technologies also has a huge impact on organizations’ ability to recruit and retain talent. As Walt McFarland, vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, notes, “I see the impact of social learning increasing in the future in a couple of important ways. First, there is an expectation that in order to attract the staff that we want to have—the very best people—you must use social media, so it’s part of our employee value proposition. Secondly, the environment is going to demand it. The problems are just too big for any one person or team. And being able to leverage the knowledge that all of us have is a real competitive advantage.”

Mike McDermott, vice president of learning and organization development at T. Rowe Price, agrees: “Social media has a great ability to retain talent. We know that one of the greatest factors around retention is feeling connected to people at work and feeling that you’re part of the team, or a larger social group or cause.”

The next level

This is the learning profession’s opportunity to be a game-changer—a paradigm shifter—and in the process, successfully position our organizations and ourselves for future success.

Web 2.0 technologies and the Net Gens are gifts that will catalyze us to drive informal learning: the most elusive, yet the most prevalent and potentially the most important learning in our organizations now and for years to come. It’s clear that social learning is critical to being able to attract, engage, collaborate with, and retain talent. And, as importantly, they encourage us to create the structures that support accessing and retaining the information shared for learning.

In the learning profession, we’ve never had the opportunity to broaden our impact as we do today through informal learning. People are demanding it, the technology is driving it, and the economy is requiring it. The pieces are there, and now is the time to connect those pieces to create a learning masterpiece that meaningfully demonstrates the critical importance of each and every one of your roles.

There are tremendous resources available from ASTD, and from many others to help you on this journey, regardless of your level of expertise. We are all in this together, and now we have the catalyst to take our careers, our profession, and our organizations to the next level. t+D

Engage with ASTD through our
social networking tools.

Resources on the Millenial Generation and the
Impact of Social Learning and Networking.

(find these publications in a social learning bundle, available at

  • Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott
  • Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
  • Driving Results Through Social Networks by Rob Cross and Robert J. Thomas
  • ASTD Research Study: “Tapping the Potential of Informal Learning”
  • ASTD Research Study: “Transforming Learning with Web 2.0 Technologies”

Posted by Melissa on September 1st, 2009 under DEL Newsletter • No Comments

Educational Tools for the 21st Century


By: Louis Caldera

President Barack Obama has proposed an ambitious agenda to reform and improve U.S. education at all levels, including by harnessing the power of technology to deliver education in new and innovative ways. He is backing up these proposals with plans for a significant increase in the federal investment in education geared to reclaiming the world’s number one ranking in college completion by 2020, producing the skilled and educated workers our economy needs to boost productivity and wages, and ensuring that the opportunity to learn and gain new skills is widely available, including to dislocated workers struggling to find well-paying jobs. Few long-term policy initiatives are as important as this for our nation’s broad-based economic growth and prosperity in the 21st century.

Key members of Congress get it. This past week the House Committee on Education and Labor responded to the president’s call for new investments in college access and completion and in the nation’s community colleges by passing the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, which authorizes and funds the major parts of this initiative. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee is working to develop a counterpart bill as part of the 2010 budget reconciliation process, and we applaud the members of theses committees for pushing ahead with President Obama’s key educational objectives in this arena.

The act wisely seeks to leverage U.S. know-how in information technology and educational instruction to develop freely available and widely disseminated high-quality online courses that will help meet the educational and training needs of students in high school and college, and among adult workers. Specifically the legislation creates a $500 million, 10-year grant program aimed at developing and widely disseminating “free high-quality online training, high school courses, and postsecondary education courses.”

To have maximum benefit, however, these investments in new online courses should be strategically aligned with the president’s goal of increasing the number of Americans who earn postsecondary college degrees or credentials that have value in the workplace. This requires that such courses be more than a catalogue of online courses freely available for download by any potential user. Instead they should be developed for use by accredited educational institutions that award degrees and certificates, matched to appropriate educational standards, and tailored to fit within the structure of a program of instruction that leads to a degree or certificate.

Offering these courses freely for use by colleges and universities throughout the nation would thus be akin to making valuable, high-quality software available for use without charging a per student licensing fee. And it is a necessary link for translating such investments into an increase in the number of degrees and credentials awarded. Yet effective delivery and management of quality courses and programs requires faculty and administrative support, and institutions that offer these courses should therefore not be precluded from charging tuition and fees to cover their costs, including expenses associated with teacher-mediated courses and with other support needed to deliver the course as part of a degree or certificate program. The act should clarify this authority.

These investments in online education will best support the goals of degree completion or skills certification if they are (1) carefully targeted to meet the needs of specific groups of learners and (2) designed to maximize acceptance and use of the courses by students, providers, and industry by following five principles for effective course development. These groups and principles are described below. This approach will help ensure that the online courses developed under this initiative help as many individuals as possible gain a college education or boost their skills and incomes, thereby helping our economy make the productivity advances necessary to ensure long-term, broad-based prosperity.

Three groups of learners

The online courses developed through this investment will best support college completion and skills credentialing goals if they are targeted at three different groups of learners:

Learners needing remedial and developmental education

Online courses shouldtarget those who today are least likely to successfully earn degrees or certificates through existing educational programs. These include high school students who are behind in grade level or at risk of dropping out, and school-aged youth who have dropped out. These students need education and training programs that meet their unique needs and set them on a path toward postsecondary education and training. Programs should also help adult students enrolled in college and university programs who have significant remedial course work to complete before they can move on to college-level, credit-earning courses.

Courses developed to meet the needs of such learners can leverage the power of technology as an educational tool, as well as new knowledge and discoveries about brain development and learning styles that can be used to help a broader range of students succeed in secondary and postsecondary education. They should also aim to accelerate the rate of academic catch up by students taking the courses in comparison to classroom-based remedial and developmental education offerings. Because one-third of college students require some form of remedial education, these investments will have broad and important impact in opening the gateway to higher education to more Americans.

Learners in training programs that lead to certification for high-skill, high-demand jobs

The program should help those seeking to upgrade their skills to meet chronic and emerging shortages of skilled workers in fields such as health care, advanced manufacturing, and engineering sciences. Frequently these learners have difficulty overcoming the barriers to the education and training programs that will help them develop these skills. These barriers can be effectively reduced through the development of online courses that support new and existing community college training programs that lead to certifications for high-skill, high-demand jobs. These training programs are frequently costly to operate and at capacity, with long waiting lists of students eager to enroll. Online courses developed for such programs should be designed to increase program capacity, lower program cost, and increase student success.

Learners who would benefit from completing core undergraduate degree courses online

Online education should also be tailored to those seeking expanded access to higher education through new options for meeting basic requirements and prerequisites for advanced courses of study. The development of online courses for this group has the potential to make the greatest difference for the largest number of students by, for example, increasing the capacity of the public colleges and universities to deliver core (first and second year) undergraduate courses. Such courses would offer scheduling flexibility and enable more students to progress toward degree completion faster and ideally at lower cost to the student and the institution.

For example, a suite of four to eight courses developed by university and community college faculty members with subject matter expertise would permit some students to complete a semester to a year of college online. These courses should be required to serve students not being served today, lower the cost of instruction, increase student achievement levels, or increase faculty productivity depending on the mix of students, content, and number of online class interactions. These courses should also be designed to articulate between community colleges and universities in the states that adopt them.

Five principles for course development

The online courses developed through this investment will be widely adopted in support of college completion and skills credentialing goals if they follow five principles:

Develop courses to educational, university, and labor market certification standards

Courses that are developed to meet clearly articulated standards have a better chance of being adopted for usage in educational and training programs that lead to degrees and certificates. For example, courses for high school students should meet relevant state and national education standards by subject and course level. Similarly, college-level courses and training courses must meet applicable faculty, discipline, and industry standards so that full credit is given to any student who completes one of these courses.

Promote broad-based development partnerships that ensure the widest possible adoption of courses by providers

The development process should include secondary school educators, college and university faculties, and, as appropriate, employers unions and industry associations with a stake in skills training programs. These stakeholders will have a say in the formal adoption of the courses that are developed and should be involved in every step of the development process. Grants awarded to public institutions of higher education in any given state should require an upfront commitment to all parties necessary to ensure the course will articulate and be adopted for credit at all public institutions of higher education in that state. Early and meaningful involvement of stakeholders can help lower resistance to adoption by ensuring that courses are developed to the right content standards and meet student, faculty, and other stakeholder needs and concerns.

Use a common design architecture that permits course sharing, customizing, and updating

Courses should be developed to a common standardthat facilitates the sharing of courses among schools, colleges, and universities throughout the nation. Courses should be developed in ways that give users the ability to update or customize the course to different needs and standards and as content requirements change. Users of courses should be able to identify the proponent of the course or other entity responsible for periodically upgrading it so that the course does not become outdated. The Department of Education should promulgate one common design standard that promotes sharing of courses and require its use in the same way as the Department of Defense’s Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative has adopted a common standard called the Shareable Content Object Reference Model for the military services to use when developing training courses so that they can be shared. The standard provides universal, internationally recognizable guidelines for development software content that promote sharing. Courses of general applicability developed to standards that are also easy to use, share, customize, and update have the highest likelihood of making a wide and lasting contribution to improving U.S. educational outcomes.

Develop both stand-alone and faculty-mediated courses

Online courses must correspond to the needs of different kinds of students dealing with a wide array of work-life and work-study situations. Online courses should be comprised of both stand-alone, self-paced courses that require little or no faculty or administrative involvement—such as a GED or contactor’s licensing exam review course—and hybrid courses that are intended to be faculty led, student cohort organized, and delivered as part of a formal education and/or training program that leads to a degree or certification.

A Department of Education-sponsored meta-analysis recently concluded that hybrid courses generally have the highest student learning outcomes as compared to stand-alone or classroom-only courses. They are likely to constitute the largest share of the kinds of courses developed under this initiative because faculty members at colleges and universities are more likely to adopt online courses that preserve the important role of the teacher in transmitting complex knowledge and helping students learn. Nevertheless, further experimentation and research regarding what kinds of courses work best for which subjects and students should be one of the goals of this program.

Provide for rigorous assessment of learning outcomes in each course

All online courses developed under this initiative should include rigorous assessment tools that permit students, teachers, educational institutions, and policymakers to assess individual and group progress throughout the course and upon its completion.


High-quality online course are expensive to develop. Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative reports development costs of $1 million to 1.5 million per course. Despite the absence of funding to support large-scale innovation and development of online courses, such courses have helped expand postsecondary offerings and opportunities for students across the nation.

The proposed investment of $500 million over 10 years in the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 can dramatically further the value and impact of such online courses, particularly if the investments are strategically targeted in support of the president’s call to increase the number of Americans completing college or earning credentials with value in the workplace.

This means that the investments must be targeted to serving those learners who, as their success rates improve, will represent significant gains in the percentages of Americans completing college or earning certificates and credentials. It also means that the courses developed through these investments must be widely adopted for use by accredited degree and certificate-granting institutions of higher education. The best way to ensure that the courses are adopted for use by such institutions is to engage the providers, their faculty, and other stakeholders in the development process from the beginning; to use a common course design architecture that can be customized and updated; and to develop courses to agreed-upon content standards, with assessment tools, and in a format that supports teacher mediated delivery of the courses.

Including these measures in the final legislation would help ensure that the benefits of investing in the development of high-quality online courses accrue to the widest array of students and workers possible; help those students improve their education, skills, and earning power; and help our economy grow and prosper. Indeed, by adding provisions that focus the act in the ways described, Congress can help lead our educational system into the 21st century, funding the kind of educational innovation needed to once again make the United States the best-educated nation in the world.

Posted by Melissa on September 1st, 2009 under DEL Newsletter • No Comments

Education in Their Hands


By: John Martin

Revolutionary change is coming to high schools in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. this year — the introduction of computers as day-to-day teaching tools.

EVSC officials say the move is an acknowledgment that today’s students are immersed in technology and learn differently than previous generations.

They say other schools with one-to-one laptops now consider them an indispensable part of education.

But while the corporation has tried to focus on the program’s benefit, some parents have expressed concerns, most of which have dealt with costs and liability.

The rental fee is $70 for the school year. For this year, that cost will be in addition to textbook fees.

The EVSC says that in the future, it will be taking a year-to-year look at what textbooks still are needed for classroom use.

“We have computer and Internet access at home, and (the cost of) books is enough to come up with,” said Robin Fetscher, whose twins attend Reitz High School. “To me, it’s money I don’t have to spend when I have computers at home and labs at school.”

Brad Byers, whose child will be a North High School freshman, sees the advantage of laptops but also has questions.

“It’s a good idea, but what scares me is what the responsibility is to us if these things break, or something happens to them,” he said.

“You’re putting a lot of responsibility on kids. But I think it’s going to help them out a lot.”

Harrison High School parent Jack Stucki said he disagrees that laptops in schools will improve education.

“It didn’t take laptops to put men on the moon,” Stucki said. “I think the school corporation is missing the mark altogether with these things.”

EVSC high school students will get their laptops at the same time they pick up their textbooks.

Contrary to what the school corporation had announced earlier, students will not need a parent or guardian with them to pick up the computers.

EVSC made the change because policies governing the laptops will be identical to those of textbooks, and parents have never had to sign for textbooks, said Marsha Jackson, the EVSC’s communications director.

As with textbooks, students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch will not have to pay the rental fee.

The rollout of the EVSC’s new laptop program was announced in May, with little fanfare.

Bids for the machines were advertised, and on June 8 the School Board bought 7,200 Hewlett Packard Mini 2140 netbooks from Matrix Integration of Jasper, Ind.

Liability concerns raised by parents prompted the corporation to make an insurance option available. Information about that will be distributed with the machines.

The transition to laptops will be an adjustment for EVSC teachers, as well as for students. Training for teachers is being offered.

Teachers such as Teri Sanders of Reitz are excited about the program and said parents and students will see the benefits.

Sanders will be integrating laptops at many levels of instruction. She said the technology will enable students to work together on projects in ways that weren’t possible before and bring unprecedented resources to students’ fingertips.

“Let me tell you, this is a dream come true for me,” she said. “I don’t think we’ve made a mistake in adding these at all. This is what the future job market is going to be.”

Bosse High School English teacher Missy Feller said the laptops and accompanying ANGEL Learning software, which is a blackboard system, will give students a preview of college learning environments.

“One of the main benefits teachers are going to have is it will save so much paper. Students will be able to do assignments electronically.”

Computer labs in schools are not a suitable substitute for constant Internet access, Feller said.

“In most high schools, Bosse included, there’s only one or two computer labs, and those are for 1,500 to 1,800 students to use. It’s very difficult to predict when you’ll need access.”

Feller agreed with Sanders that the laptops reflect a new era in education.

“I remember when I was a student at Bosse, when we did a research project we would bus to Central Library and walk around the aisles for hours,” Feller said. “This is a lot more efficient.”

Posted by Melissa on September 1st, 2009 under DEL Newsletter • 1 Comment

Swine Flu Plan for Schools via BBC


The BBC could be asked to clear its schedules for educational programmes if schools are closed due to swine flu, it has emerged.

Ministers are understood to have had discussions with the Corporation as part of its “contingency planning” for the pandemic.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: “The Government drew up plans to deal with a flu pandemic more than 18 months ago which give indications for contingency plans, including online learning and discussions with broadcasters including the BBC and Teachers TV.”

Since the swine flu pandemic was declared, ministers have begun those discussions, she said.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) has previously said that while it expects schools and nurseries to reopen as usual in September, they “cannot be certain what the situation will be”, so some closures may be possible.

A spokesman said they were looking at contingency plans in the event of school closures.

A BBC spokeswoman said the broadcaster has a “strong role” to play in providing information and health advice during the pandemic.

She said that in the event of school closures, the BBC website would have the “most important” role for school children.

“Throughout the year, the BBC always looks carefully at its available audiences and, as with holiday periods for example, it may be appropriate to run a similar schedule for children depending on how long the schools are closed,” she said.

“While it would be impractical to make new educational TV programmes in the time available, we would look at whether programmes of an educational or informative nature could interest children who are not at school.”

Posted by Melissa on September 1st, 2009 under DEL Newsletter • No Comments

School Gets in Early to Stop Cyber-Bullies


By: Breanna Tucker

Baranduda Primary School is preventing its students from turning into cyber-bullies by signing them up to a Facebook site for kids.

The school is among the first 100 in Australia to be trying the UK-based SuperClubsPLUS program, which is a social networking site for children aged 6 to 12.

The club allows students to chat, send emails, post blogs, join forums and build web pages while under constant supervision from teachers who act as “mediators”.

These “mediators” watch everything the students say or do and will intervene through a messaging system if they believe students are posting private information or sending negative messages to their peers.

Baranduda’s e-learning co-ordinator Angela Gray said the site was vital in combating the negative effects of cyber-bullying, such as the case of an Albury teenager who threatened to harm himself with a carving knife after prolonged cyber-abuse.

“On SuperClubsPLUS the kids can’t say anything nasty and if they do the mediators are right on top of it,” she said.

“I get a list of warnings from the mediators and we nip everything in the bud right from the start.

“We’re making a big deal of it in primary school in the hope that, as they get older, they’ll realise not to do it, even if it’s on their mobile phone.”

The SuperClubsPLUS program started in England in 2006 and has since spread to Kenya, Malaysia and broader Europe.

La Trobe University researcher Jennifer Masters, who is helping co-ordinate the launch in Australia, said it gave children a deeper understanding of internet ethics.

“We had a case where one girl told her friend that she’d just (moved up a level in the club) and her friend said ‘good for you’, which made the first girl quite upset,” she said.

“The friend then had to explain she was only being sarcastic, so we ended up having quite a long discussion about sarcasm and how, when you can’t hear the expression in a person’s voice, the message might come across unintentionally as being quite mean.

“In another situation a teacher was having problems with a girl sending nasty emails, so she printed one out and sat the two students down together.

“She asked the girl who wrote the emails to read one out loud but the girl couldn’t because she felt they were too nasty.”

Posted by Melissa on September 1st, 2009 under DEL Newsletter • No Comments