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Friday
Aug072009

A Great Friday Quote Of Inspiration About Education

I just read this quote from John Wooden, arguably the most successful coach in sports history.  It came from an unknown poet and was given to John from his father:

 

No written word or spoken plea

Can teach our youth what they should be.

Nor all the books on all the shelves

It's what the teachers are themselves.

 

Thanks to all of my readers for their continued support of my blog.

Thursday
Aug062009

Study: Students Want More Learning

From this month's ESchool News magazine.  As part of our efforts to reform our education system, I think it's important to listen to the "customer" sometimes.  And here I mean the students.  As research has shown, our education gap with the rest of the world begins to widen after 4th grade.  Up until then, we're not performing at "crisis" levels.

So a recent report from Project Tomorrow and Blackboard, Inc. showed that while more than 40% of sixth through twelfth graders have researched or demonstrated interest in taking a course online, only 10% have actually taken an online course through their school.  In addition, 7% of middle school students and 4% of high school students instead have pursued opportunities outside their school to take online courses.  This underscores a disconnect between the supply and demand for online learning in today's schools.  This comes verbatim from the article.

There many more data points summarized from the report, but I think you better read it for yourself.  Let me continue to reiterate that we are trying to educate a digital generation of students whose brains are wired differently and they are more tech savvy and exposed to digital technology much earlier in their lives than us "grownups."  When is our education system going to realize that when you educate students using stimuli they are using regularly in their daily lives, there is a greater chance you will "connect" with them, motivate them, and ultimately, get them to learn effectively?

I would also like to recommend a report that is freely accessible on the web.  I usually don't find much value in these "white papers," although every once in a while,  I come across one that is thoughtful and logical.  The report provides an interesting action plan for how to transform mathematics and science education in our nation's schools.  To quote from the executive summary:  "The nation's capacity to innovate for economic growth and the ability of American workers to thrive in the global economy depend on a broad foundation of math and science learning, as do our hopes for preserving a vibrant democracy and the promise of social mobility for young people that lie at the heart of the American dream."

Happy reading.

Thursday
Jul302009

A Contrarian Perspective on "Race To The Top"

This is my first post since returning from both a NY trip and a family holiday, and I thought I'd start with a bang.....

 

A lot of articles have been published that discuss the $4.35 billion "Race to the Top" fund, the largest ever single federal investment in school reform.  I'm going to flat out state taht this effort will fail, much to my dismay.  And here's why.

 

  1. I truly believe that until we create a set of nationally-driven standards for learning, we will continue to fall behind our international peers.  As mentioned in my 4-part vision for reinventing education in America, the roadmap needs to be a hybrid of nationally-driven vision and locally managed execution. 
  2. I think we need to continue to foster competition in local school districts and support alternative schools such as charter schools, virtual schools and other eLearning programs.  Maybe the answer is not to invest in a complete overhaul of underperforming schools, but ensure that these students are offered options in learning environments that are demonstrating measured success in improving student achievment?
  3. If you look at my 4-part vision, we cannot place the blame on teachers or focus on teachers, as the Gates Foundation is currently doing.  While I have the utmost respect for Gates' philanthropy, we must first fix the pedagogy, then train the current teachers, get them off of the tenure program, and then pay them on a merit-based system commensurate with corporate america.  We need to incent students to pursue a career in education, and until compensation and other incentives are at a level where teaching is not considered "the contingency plan" for students who cannot attain jobs in other industries, then the system will not be able to attract the high performing talent into the teaching profession.

 

There are many, many other issues I have with the current plans; however, I continue to believe that the intense focus on education will eventually bear fruit.  I just wish that the government would peel one layer at a time rather than a panic-driven all-at-once overhaul.

 

And perhaps I need to be better informed with more details on the program, but from what I have seen, this is the unfortunate conclusion I have come to.

 

I welcome your comments and be on the lookout for additional posts in the days ahead.  Thanks for your readership!!

Friday
Jul102009

Reflections After Visiting South Korea

While my recent trip to Seoul was only a few days, it was a fantastic benchmarking exercise, given I had not visited the country since 2006.  South Korea's innovation in both entertainment and "serious" media development is riveting.  I was wholly impressed with the advances they have made in not only creating truly immersive entertainment experiences, but also in their committment to games and education.  It is wholly inadequate for me to state that they are thinking further ahead than the United States.  I applaud their efforts, and hopefully, my work to encourage knowledge transfer and collaboration between Korean and U.S. media companies will help enhance the already respected talent pool in the United States.

It is IMPORTANT that everyone understand that my comments do not suggest nor diminish the work of a few pockets of innovation in this country.  I am simply stating that taken as a whole, the United States should learn from what other countries are doing, particularly South Korea.

I would also like to give kudos to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, because although I do not agree with some of this policies or tactics, his selfless committment to pushing his agenda to all stakeholders, most recently the powerful NEA, is absolutely required in order to eventually be successful in reinventing education in America. A recent article talks about the substance of his recent keynoe at an NEA conference.  If you go back to my 4-part treatise on reinventing education, obviously teachers are one of the key elements, but not the only element. Know that teachers are only a piece of the current problems; they are not the cause of the problem nor should people use teachers as the scapegoat to the education problems in America.  My mother was a 25+ year teaching veteran in the public schools, so you will NEVER hear me trash talking teachers.

In this month's eSchoolNews magazine, there is a great op-ed authored by retiring Intel Chairman Craig Barrett titled, "American Education Reform:  Stranded on Islands of Excellence."  I was unable to find a link to it, but I suggest everyone find a way to read it.  Mr. Barrett boiled our action plan to remain globally competitive down to three "pillars":  Smart People, Smart Ideas, and Smart Policies.   I want everyone to read this article in detail, but here is one quote that refers to datapoints that come up time after time after time:

"Out of 30 industrialized countries we rank 25th in mathematics; in science, 21st; in reading, 15th; and in problem solving, 24th.  You would think that this data would make headlines in the daily newspapers.  But in America, our intellectual and academic decline is a non-event."

 

With that, I thank all of my readers for their continued loyalty and support, and until next time......

Friday
Jun262009

Games And Learning

Before I leave for a business trip to South Korea, I thought it timely to use today to highlight some recent perspectives about the video games and learning outcomes.  As many of you know, I am very passionate about the need to develop fun, learning tools for the classroom using the video game medium, and it's time for the education system to not only allocate dollars for these products, but to train and incent their teachers on how to incorporate these into their lesson plans.  Assessment can be built into game-based learning products.

My friend Michael Horn of the Innosight Institute posted a blog post about "serious games."  I do not like that terminology because it could denote that the games are not "fun."  However, Michael is correctly using the term that the segment is know by:  games developed for serious purposes (e.g., health care, education, military, corporate training, etc.).  Michael is correct when he points out that these products will likely have to enter the market in pockets of "non-consumption." or through online learning providers before going head-to-head with the school systems.  But it's important that learning games as a genre continue to showcased as the education industry tried to reinvent itself.

Another article of interest came out in today's eSchoolnews also provides a fresh reminder that learning games have moved beyond a Quixotian quest.  I have predicted for quite some time that eventually, investors will follow the research and other market trends and realize that this segment is a wide open playing field of opportunity, and that profits can be made here.

To those of you who are game developers, keep making these games!  Our children's educational future depends on it.

 

Happy early July 4th to all.