Thursday, September 12, 2013

No Child Left Untableted

I really liked this article by Carlo Rotella for its skeptical perspective and 'a day in the life' kind of feel for what educators are confronting or will soon be confronting in the paradigm shift to mobile learning.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Research Study for Gamification in Higher Ed

Using the TS 200:  Human Uses of Technology course at the University of Victoria, they are running a control/variable experiment around the use of Gamification to improve student engagement.

Earlier today, David Leach shared their pre-post instrument in the LinkedIn Serious Games Group, soliciting feedback.

The course includes a major project essay activity, and one of the allowed formats is an Alternative Media Essay in the form of an iBook manuscript.

The course website identifies a number of Badges.  I would suggest that these are more achievements than badges, since they mostly target single parameters within the course and I would normally attribute a badge to a skillset with a recognized value outside of the course.

It is supercool to see this research happening and I'm eager to see the outcome

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Can Digital Games Boost Student Test Scores?

A new SRI study released today suggests they do — at least in the subjects of science, math, engineering, and technology. According to the report, which is an analysis of 77 peer-reviewed journal articles of students K-16 studying STEM subjects, “when digital games were compared to other instruction conditions without digital games, there was a moderate to strong effect in favor of digital games in terms of broad cognitive competencies.”

More specifically, “students at the median in the control group (no games) could have been raised 12 percent in cognitive learning outcomes if they had received the digital game.”

Another way to explain it: “For a student sitting in the median who doesn’t have a game, his or her learning achievement would have increased by 12 percent if he or she had that game,” said Ed Dieterle,  Senior Program Officer for Research, Measurement, and Evaluation for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which funded the SRI report.

Simulations have an even bigger impact, according to this analysis. When considering simulations — taking a phenomena, process, or behavior and coding it into something that can be manipulated and studied — improvement index jumped to 25 percent, meaning students who used simulations could have increased their learning outcomes by that amount.

Read the entire article ...

Playing video games can give girls an edge in math!

Girls  should play more video games. That’s one of the unexpected lessons I take away from a rash of recent studies on the importance of—and the malleability of—spatial skills.

First, why spatial skills matter: The ability to mentally manipulate shapes and otherwise understand how the three-dimensional world works turns out to be an important predictor of creative and scholarly achievements, according to research published this month in the journal Psychological Science. The long-term study found that 13-year-olds’ scores on traditional measures of mathematical and verbal reasoning predicted the number of scholarly papers and patents these individuals produced three decades later.

But high scores on tests of spatial ability taken at age 13 predicted something more surprising: the likelihood that the individual would develop new knowledge and produce innovation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the domains collectively known as STEM.

The good news is that spatial abilities can get better with practice. A meta-analysis of 217 research studies, published in the journal Psychological Science last year, concluded that “spatial skills are malleable, durable and transferable”: that is, spatial skills can be improved by training; these improvements persist over time; and they “transfer” to tasks that are different from the tasks used in the training.

This last point is supported by a study published just last month in the Journal of Cognition and Development, which reported that training children in spatial reasoning can improve their performance in math. A single twenty-minute training session in spatial skills enhanced participants’ ability to solve math problems, suggesting that the training “primes” the brain to tackle arithmetic, says study author and Michigan State University education professor Kelly Mix.

Playing an action video game “can virtually eliminate” the gender difference in a basic capacity they call spatial attention

Findings like these have led some researchers to advocate for the addition of spatial-skills training to the school curriculum. That’s not a bad idea, but here’s another way to think about it: the informal education children receive can be just as important as what they learn in the classroom. We need to think more carefully about how kids’ formal and informal educational experiences fit together, and how one can fill gaps left by the other.

If traditional math and reading skills are emphasized at school, for example, parents can make sure that spatial skills are accentuated at home—starting early on, with activities as simple as talking about the spatial properties of the world around us. A 2011 study from researchers at the University of Chicago reported that the number of spatial terms (like “circle,” “curvy,” and “edge”) parents used while interacting with their toddlers predicted how many of these kinds of words children themselves produced, and how well they performed on spatial problem-solving tasks at a later age.

As kids grow older, much of the experience they get in manipulating three-dimensional objects comes from playing video games—which brings us back to the contention at the start of this article. Males have historically held the advantage over females in spatial ability, and this advantage has often been attributed to genetic differences. But males’ spatial edge may also reflect, in part, differences in the leisure-time activities of boys and girls, activities that add up to a kind of daily drill in spatial skills for boys.

If that’s the case, then offering girls more opportunities to practice their spatial skills may begin to close the spatial-skills gender gap—and produce more female scientists, engineers and mathematicians in the bargain. So suggests a study by University of Toronto researchers, published in the journal Psychological Science. They found that playing an action video game “can virtually eliminate” the gender difference in a basic capacity they call spatial attention, while at the same time reducing the gender difference in the ability to mentally rotate objects, a higher-level spatial skill.

Exposure to video games, the authors conclude, “could play a significant role as part of a larger strategy designed to interest women in science and engineering careers.” Participants with little prior video-game exposure “realized large gains after only ten hours of training,” they note, adding that “we can only imagine the benefits that might be realized after weeks, months, or even years of action-video-gaming experience.”

Parents of daughters may blanch at the idea of actually encouraging “years” of action video game play. These moms and dads should tell themselves that their daughters aren’t wasting their time—they’re readying themselves for brilliant careers as scientists and engineers.

From KQED Mindshift

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Future of Innovation is Simulation

“If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”

- Thomas Edison

Failing 10,000 times is a physical and mental undertaking that far exceeds most people’s endurance.  Today, however, a new breed of innovators are outsourcing failure to computer simulations and it’s changing business and political strategy.

Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney, in part, with Big Data.

In corporate life, Mitt Romney was known for his acumen, strong work ethic and keen eye for talent.  He carried these practices over to his political career and his campaign team was similarly bright and indefatigable  They analyzed past trends, developed a theory of the case and executed their strategy efficiently.  They had only one chance to get it right.

President Barack Obama had a different approach.  He created an entire division of young, unkempt, over-caffeinated data junkies with little experience in business or politics.  They had no set theory of the case, but instead ran 62,000 simulations per night and continuously updated their approach.

The result is now clear to just about everyone on the planet.  The smartest guys in the room were no match for terabytes of data and smart algorithms.  There is no more “theory of the case,” but thousands of them, being run constantly.  The point isn’t to be right, but to be less wrong over time.

As Ria Persad, President of StatWeather – a firm that has managed to double the accuracy of weather forecasts, puts it, “There is a difference between a deterministic and a probabilistic forecast. We don’t actually predict one weather outcome.  We run thousands of possibilities, present the most probable scenario and the risk associated with it.”

In effect, we’re increasingly moving towards a simulation economy, where strategic analysis gives way to reconstructing phenomena from real world data, testing hypotheses and learning.

Read the whole article ...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Large Scale Tablet Deployments

LA Unified spends $30,000, 000.00 on iPads

Apple Inc. won a $30-million contract Tuesday from the L.A. Unified School District, paving the way for the company to provide every student with an iPad in the nation's second-largest school system.

The Board of Education voted 6 to 0 on Tuesday to approve the contract after hearing senior staff laud Apple's product as both the best in quality and the least expensive option that met the district's specifications.

Tuesday's vote authorized an iPad rollout at 47 campuses. However, by choosing Apple as the sole vendor, the district also made a de facto commitment to spend hundreds of millions of dollars with the Cupertino, Calif.-based digital giant over the next two years.

The tablet computer by Apple “received the highest scoring by the students and the teachers,” who took part in testing different devices, said Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino.

The district is paying $678 per device -- higher than tablets available in stores -- but the machines will be pre-loaded with educational software. The price does not include a keyboard, which may be necessary for older students.  The three-year warranty includes free replacement machines up to 5% of the value of the purchase.

Amplify announces one of the largest tablet deployments in K-12

Amplify announced a deal for the deployment of 21,215 tablets to Guilford County Schools in North Carolina. The devices will be used by students and teachers in 24 middle schools throughout the district beginning in the 2013-2014 school year. The agreement, which was awarded through a competitive bid process and is largely paid for through federal Race to The Top funds, provides Guilford with tablets for four years.

“This is one of the largest 1-to-1 deployments, if not the single largest, to date in K-12 education,” said Amplify CEO Joel Klein. “At Amplify, we’re working to transform the way teachers teach and students learn. We aren’t recycling consumer goods for the classroom. We are a company that is 100-percent focused on education.”

“This is more than just a tablet. It’s a complete learning solution organized around the school day,” said Stephen Smyth, president of Amplify’s Access division, which produces the tablet. “We believe it’s both more affordable and more impactful than just about any other product in the education technology market.”

The Amplify Tablet offers states, districts and schools a Wi-Fi enabled, 1-to-1, personalized learning solution that includes Amplify’s exclusive software designed for teaching and learning; preloaded third-party content and reference tools; customer care; professional development; and enterprise-level device management. In addition to the Wi-Fi model, which will be used by the Guilford County Schools, school districts can opt to provide teachers and students with the Amplify Tablet Plus, which includes 4G LTE connectivity from AT&T.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Glasslab's SimCityEDU for Formative Assessment

GlassLab is working with commercial game companies, assessment experts, and those versed in digital classrooms to build SimCityEDU, a downloadable game designed for sixth graders. Scheduled for release in the fall of 2013, it builds on SimCity’s city management theme, but provides specific challenges to players in the subject of STEM.

SimCityEDU grew out of research conducted by the MacArthur foundation on how gaming can mirror formative assessments [PDF] – measuring understanding regularly along the learning path, rather than occasionally or at the end of a unit, as is most common. Their research found that games gather data about the player as he or she makes choices within the game, affecting the outcome. In games, players “level-up,” moving on to higher levels when they’ve mastered the necessary skills; similarly teachers scaffold lessons to deepen understanding as a student grasps the easier concepts.

SimCityEDU, with funding by the Gates and Macarthur foundations, will now provide assessments that are aligned with Common Core State Standards. The EDU version uses the same code as the commercial game, but with the addition of using students’ choices during challenges as a method of assessment. GlassLab is still working to develop all the challenges based on focus-group feedback on student interests, but the one challenge they know they’ll include focuses on the environment, based on positive feedback from the focus groups.

Students will be asked to conduct interviews and look at research to determine what kind of power plant to build in the town. As they play, taking photo documentation, interpreting the information they’ve gathered, drawing conclusions, graphing the data and finally making a decision, the game assesses each choice. Teachers will have a tool to see how each child’s play matches up against Common Core standards.

And game developers hope that the incremental data will help teachers know when to step in and offer more help. For example, if an interview contradicts scientific evidence, the student will have to discern bias, figure out how to weight the various pieces of evidence differently, and back up conclusions with data and text.

SimCityEDU will not go to market until third-party assessor, SRI International, has validated by testing students who’ve played the game using a completely different assessment tool to ensure the game works.

GlassLab plans to offer the downloadable game at little to no cost for schools and teachers.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tablet Shipments Double in Education

Tablets accounted for more than one-third of all client devices shipped to education institutions in the United States in the last calendar year. That volume represents a doubling of tablet purchases from the previous year, according to a new report released last last month by market research firm IDC. And the growth won't stop there.

The report, Tablets Changing the Education Sector in the United States, Major Momentum Underway, found that overall client device shipments to U.S. education institutions hit 8.5 million total units in calendar 2012, up 15.3 percent from the previous year. Those devices include notebooks, tablets, and desktops. But shipments of tablets were up much more — a full 103 percent year-over-year, representing about 3 million total units, or 35.4 percent of the total. In 2011, they represented 19.4 percent of the total. According to IDC, tablets are just getting started. "While tablet sales to the education sector doubled from 2011 to 2012, we are only seeing the beginning of a much greater push that is likely to last for years," said David Daoud, research director, personal computers at IDC, in a prepared statement. "As a result, we remain highly optimistic about sustained tablet growth in education, particularly as prices decline due to greater competition."

What's driving that growth? According to IDC: "The impetus to go digital in the education sector can be found among virtually all U.S. education institutions as well as around the world. Government mandates from all levels to digitize education, the relatively low cost of tablets, and a proliferation of funding sources are providing an enormous push to tablet adoption, effectively bringing the concept of one device per student closer to reality."

Part of that success is also being fueled by manufacturers that work with institutions "to execute strategies that encompass educational content as well as the content delivery platforms. In this context, IDC expects to see a new set of stakeholders emerge as new ideas and partnerships enable them to offer more than just hardware." In particular, according to IDC's Tom Mainelli, research director, tablets, K-12 schools will be at the forefront of that effort. "Tablet vendors that expect to compete in the education market need to be thinking beyond just hardware speeds and feeds," he said. "We expect K-12 in particular to be at the center of new innovations where partnerships between hardware makers, content owners, solution providers and others will lead to many new educational opportunities." In total, the 8.5 million client devices shipped to education institutions in 2012 represented about $5 billion in equipment.

I think that we should expect this growth to continue, that this is just the beginning.

The gaining momentum across education to purchase digital instead of printed textbooks is going to drive a topology change in each institution.  For each student to have a digital textbook, they need a device to use it - and a lab or two of expensive desktops in the school just isn't at all suitable ... each school needs a device for each student, it is unavoidable.

The rate of acceleration in adoption is going to be directly dependent upon the availability and quality of digital texts.  Printed textbooks can't compare to their digital counterpart.  But, a school can't retarget their purchasing to a digital text if one isn't available for their curriculum.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the text publishing arena ... can the companies that know how to make printed texts remake themselves?  It seems likely that if they cannot, they won't survive.  If they don't, who will be the new publishers?  States and school districts are setup to make text purchases from huge corporations, who have sales and business support mechanisms to make that happen.  Will there be an emergence of indie text publishers (similar to the latest iteration of indie game developers)?

There is another issue at work here too ...

I think that what may be most profound impact of the rise of tablets and instant mobility is that they will cause a paradigm shift in education that will be similar to the emergence of the Web in education the late 90's.  Mobile learning isn't just elearning made small ... mlearning is a completely new animal ...  since the 90's, it has been a long, painful learning curve for education to come to grips with the fact that using the Web for education isn't taking traditional text resources and shoveling them into HTML.  Mobile learning will now present a new requirement for professional development to accompany this migration.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Discovery's Free Summer STEM Camp Materials

Discovery is formalizing its programs related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) under an umbrella initiative called "Connect the Dots," intended to help young people make the link between STEM and their everyday lives. One new program under Connect the Dots is a bundle of free digital resources that can be used to put on STEM after school sessions or summer camps.
STEM Camp consists of a series of standards-aligned curricula available at no cost to schools, districts, non-profit organizations, and parents for use as part of educational events. The materials combine hands-on and virtual labs, engineering challenges, digital investigations, interactive videos, and career connections designed to engage students in STEM topics and connect them to specific careers. The program will track along with "grand challenges" identified by the National Academy of Engineers, encompassing STEM-related approaches to water, urban infrastructure, and energy. A webinar introducing the program will be held on May 7 at 7 p.m. Eastern time.
The water program, which is the first one available, provides five days of activities. Each day's resources include an overview, a presentation that walks facilitators through the activities including experiments and videos, a proposed schedule, and a list of materials needed. To access the site's resources, the user must register.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Proposed National Reorganization for STEM Education

In their 2014 budget proposal, the Whitehouse is projecting a significant reorganization related to the programs and funding for STEM Education.  It would eliminate 78, consolidate 49, and launch 39 new programs.  In the end, the request of $3.1 billion for STEM Education would be a 7% increase over the 2012 allocation.

The purpose of the reorganization is to reduce overlap and fragmentation, and to increase coordination and assessment of the effectiveness of the funding.

NASA, NOAA, and NIH have been projected for major reductions related to their respective education activities.  The Department of Education, NSF, and the Smithsonian Institution would all have their STEM related programs realigned and their funding expanded.

ScienceInsider spoke last week with top officials at each agency.

While the Congress is likely to reduce the effectiveness of this reorganization, in the interests of preserving programs for various influential constituents, the reorg objectives seem sound and it is heartening to see the 7% increase in funding overall.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

HP Catalyst Initiative

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), the New Media Consortium (NMC), and HP have created a free, online professional development initiative designed to help educators around the world teach STEMx subjects. The HP Catalyst Academy will launch in June 2013 with 15 free mini-courses taught by HP Catalyst Fellows.

The HP Catalyst Initiative coined the term STEMx to expand on the traditional definition of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. The "x" in STEMx refers to other disciplines, such as computer science, nanoscience, and biotech, as well as skills like collaboration, creativity, communication, problem solving, inquiry, computational thinking, and global fluency, all of which the HP Catalyst Initiative considers important for success in the high tech world.

The HP Catalyst Academy is intended to "accelerate STEMx education, transform teaching practices, and continue to close the digital skills gap," according to a news release from the organization. The mini-courses will be taught by HP Catalyst Fellows, educators and entrepreneurs from around the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada who have experience developing and launching large-scale projects that have a positive effect on teachers and students.
"The professional development opportunities are designed to be completely practical and forward-thinking," said Larry Johnson, CEO of NMC. "They really have the capacity to transform STEMx teaching and learning as we know it.”
The first 15 online mini-courses available through HP Catalyst Academy include:
  • Building a Framework for Digital Fabrication;
  • Social Textbooks;
  • Computational Thinking in Secondary Schools;
  • Connecting Students to their World;
  • Game Design for Learning;
  • Geospatial Tech for STEMx Learning;
  • Helping Students Change their World through App Design;
  • InkSurvey: Graphical Response Tool for Real-Time Formative Assessment;
  • Multi/Interdisciplinary STEMx Teaching;
  • Planning Enriching ICT-Mediated STEMx Experiences;
  • Polar Bears in a Changing Climate;
  • Project-Based Learning with Real-World Problems;
  • Remote Labs;
  • Weaving Social Media into STEM Teaching; and
  • Strategies for Formative Assessment through e-Portfolios

Further information about HP Catalyst Academy can be found at

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Second Draft of the Next Generation Science Standards

The second draft of the Next Generation Science Standards opened for feedback on January 8, 2013 and will remain open for feedback until January 29, 2013.  All interested parties are encouraged to review the draft as individuals or in groups and provide feedback to the Lead States and writers.  In this draft, the standards are coded by Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) from the NRC's Framework for K-12 Science Education, and are available in two different arrangements- by DCI and by topic.