Global Connects


Night-time in Paris by Norton Gusky

On January 9, 2011, I departed for the BETT conference in London as a delegate with the Consortium for School Networking.  We then moved to Paris where we met with UNESCO officials and OECD (Organization for Economic and Community Development) educational technology leaders.

Here are a series of blog entries I shared on the CoSN blog site:

Day 1: London

The BETT conference began yesterday. I had lunch with a fellow from Sweden. We had a fascinating conversation on the differences in educational systems. I encountered a Scottish project, GLOW, that looks quite promising and may be a model for something I’m going to take back to the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. The system incorporates a learning management system with tools for collaboration and communication. Last month teachers used the system to deliver virtual lessons when snow closed the Scottish schools. I visited an amazing display by RM Education that provided a host of solutions for creating new learning environments using technology. Students from a nearby school created animations, radio production shows, short films, and worked on STEM projects. The furniture was flexible and appropriate to the learning age of the student.

Day 2: London – BETT Conference


After two presentations at the International BETT I headed downstairs to the Exhibit Hall. What an amazing array of exhibitors! I was fortunate to run into a trainer I use in the Fox Chapel Area School District who’s here in London representing Polyvision. She helped to orient me and introduce me to the head of Quizdom in Europe. Most of my time was spent talking and interviewing students. They were quite passionate about their use of technology. One school sends students every year to work on projects in the exhibit hall to demonstrate the use of technology. I sat down with one team to swap stories about the use use of iPads. I shared Hunter Berk’s video from TRETC.

We ended the evening with a Microsoft briefing for educational leaders at the Savoy. The hotel was spectacular, while the program forgot to use the communication and collaboration skills it professed.

Day 3: London – Meet with Charles Clark and BETT

The morning began with a meeting with Charles Clark, the former Secretary of State for Education and Skills.

Charles Clark, the former Secretary of State for Education and Skills, UK

He provided a very personalized story of politics and issues that outlined the history of ICT in Great Britain. He began his story with his personal rise to as the educational technology reformer for Great Britain and concluded with his evaluation of the changes in policy by the new coalition government.

We then headed to BETT where we met with Jean Johnson, the founder of the NotSchool project. She passionately outlined how she developed a alternative education program to reach out to the “outlyers,” the dropout outs, the failing students in the system. She developed with help from Stephen Hepple and other British folks a personalized approach to learning that built upon student strengths using digital media. The program is now in Michigan through the WAY program. It’s having great impact on a similar American population. I’m hoping to connect with Jean for a possible virtual TRETC presentation and to look at bringing the program to the Pittsburgh region as part of Pittsburgh CONNECTS or as an effort of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit.

After a final tour of the exhibitors we headed by train to Paris and our hotel in Montmartre. Quite a day that we capped off with dinner and an evening walk to Sacré Coeur to view the stunning Paris panorama by night with the Eiffel Tower lighting up the landscape.

Day 4: Paris – Visit to OECD

After getting an overview of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, we focused on the PISA 2009 report. Included with the report are a series of video reports on the Pearson Foundation web site. The results from the PISA reported demonstrated that students can be high performing regardless of socio-economic differences or immigration status. This was true in countries like Canada and Finland. The United States showed progress between 2000 and 2009 in Science, but not in Math or Reading. The countries that grew usually did so by targeting the Level 2 students. Level 2 activities were usually at an analysis level versus Level 1 that were mainly knowledge based. There were three additional levels in increasing complexity.

In June 2011 there will be a report on reading and using digital information. This will be extremely important to examine. The report will look at ICT skills in areas such as digital media manipulation, multimedia presentations, spreadsheet use, and data base design and analysis.

We moved into a discussion of innovation in education. Innovation: Education. OECD’s goals include:

  • Longitudinal data systems that become expert systems
  • Begin international conversation
  • Map current practice

Opportunities for OECD include:

  • Improve decision-making and instructional practice

We shared our insights into factors that limit the ability to innovate:

  • Developing common assessment across multiple districts, schools
    Developing common standards
    Cultural changes – What is school? Policy at national/state/local
    Common vocabulary
    Time to implement and to train teachers and administrators to effectively use data
    Portability and operability using common tagging
    Definition of accountability

OECD and Education
There are four key areas of focus that are inter-linked: Statistics and Indicators -> Education Policy -> Learning Outcomes -> Research & Innovation

Each area has a series of projects and products: TALIS, Education at a Glance, Thematic and Country reviews, Institutional Management in Higher Education, PISA, PIAAC adult competencies) , AHELO (assessing higher education outcomes), CERI, – Innovative Learning Environments

TALIS 2008 / 2013 Study on effectiveness of teaching

Here are the focus areas:

  • Conditions for effective teaching
  • Improving teaching practices
  • Impact of teachers on student learning

Overview TALIS 2008

  • 24 countries (not USA)
  • principals and teachers in schools (high school)
  • Conditions for effective learning
  • Classroom climate and discipline
  • Self Efficacy
  • Job satisfaction

Overview for TALIS 2013

  • Wider coverage (Elementary and secondary)
  • More countries
  • Video study of teaching practices
  • Link to PISA results (sample same schools with PISA participation)

New indicators

  • School leadership
  • Parent school relations
  • School Climate
  • Teachers beliefs in student assessment practices
  • Teaching special education students
  • Profile of student assessment practices

New Millennium Learners
This study examined the following key question: Is intensive use of technologies and connectedness influencing learners? To answer this question there were two issues to address:

  • Are they developing differently
  • Are their expectations changing?


  • Not enough research to demonstrate that access to Technology does not made a change in cognitive skills development
  • Young people’s expectations and behaviors have not changed

The group challenged the findings. The study should have prefaced the report indicating the findings were for formal learning environments. Keith Kreuger pointed out that the MacArthur Foundation study on information learning had the opposite findings. I shared my personal findings based on surveys I did in 2005 and 2009. There’s no doubt that today’s students have changed, but not within the context of the classroom, but in the home.

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