Driving Innovation: Tech Enablers

In 2018 the Consortium for Schools Networked (CoSN) transformed the K-12 Horizon Report into The CoSN K-12 Driving Innovation Series with three reports. The reports are based on the work of over 100 educators around the globe who look at emerging technologies through three lenses: Hurdles, Accelerators, and Tech Enablers. As the co-chair of the CoSN Emerging Technologies Committee, I was selected to be part of the process. The Advisory Group engaged in several months of discourse about the major themes driving, hindering, and enabling teaching and learning innovation at schools. After each phase, final thoughts from advisory board members were distilled in surveys discerning the top five topics to feature in each publication.

Currently I’m working with the CoSN Emerging Technologies Committee to expand the work of the Advisory Group around Tech Enhancers, focusing on Analytics and Adaptive Technologies.

According to the Driving Innovation report:

Tech Enablers are tools that support smooth leaps over the hurdles and expansive changes in K-12 education. The top five enablers , which were ranked in order of closest proximity to mainstream adoption are:

To understand how Analytics and Adaptive Technologies have evolved I interviewed two key experts: Steve Ritter, the Chief Scientist and one of the founders of Carnegie Learning, and John Pane, a Senior Scientist and one of the leading educational researchers with the RAND Corporation. Both Steve and John have years of experience and have witnessed the changes in how Analytics and Adaptive Technologies have created new opportunities for a better understanding about learning and how to personalize that learning.

According to Steve Ritter, the role of analytics is changing in K-12 education with availability of Big Data. For Carnegie Learning data plays several key roles:

  • Evidence of student learning based on existing assessments;
  • Improve existing products to better identify learning issues;
  • Provide teachers with real-time information about student learning.

Carnegie Learning has partnered with the Miami-Dade School District in Florida and other schools to develop “LiveLab,” a real-time analytics dashboard that provides data to educators based on student progress within MATHia™ software. The dashboard identifies which students most need help so that teacher can make best use of their time.  It also helps teachers better understand why students need help. According to Carnegie Learning’s website, “LiveLab highlights each student’s progress through math concepts in real-time so teachers can guide, intervene and coach effectively. Indicators and alerts help teachers assist struggling students and celebrate students for hitting key milestones in Carnegie Learning’s MATHia software.” Teachers from Hopewell School District, outside of Pittsburgh, PA, have been testing out LiveLab. Ray Smith, one of the teachers, describes the experience as game-changing. According to Ray, “Using the analytic tool provides all the student information at your finger tips.”

John Pane has examined a variety of adaptive software tools. The results are not always positive. For instance one study of the Cognitive Tutor Algebra from Carnegie Learning in 150 schools in over 50 school districts showed a significant improvement, but mainly in the second year. In a separate study of Cognitive Tutor Geometry in a single school district there was negative effect on learning. According to John you need to look deeper. The Carnegie Learning programs are not intended as 100% computer based. The software is intended to supplement small and whole group instruction. These studies measured the entire package of software, classroom implementation, training and the ability for the teacher to change their practice to work in concert with the adaptive software. According to John there is a conflict between policy and practice. The software pinpoints the need for many learners to work on prerequisite skills, but the teachers are often under pressure to “cover” the content and are uncomfortable letting the students move at their own pace. As a result they may have students use the software less, or override the software to push them into more advanced content before they have mastered the basics.

John also discerned a potential risk with the use of Adaptive Technology. If educators are not careful, they can end up tracking students and have lower expectations for student performance. He also highlighted some other challenges around privacy and security. However, even with these concerns, John remained optimistic and believed that adaptive technologies and analytical tools when used appropriately and with teacher training and buy in can provide greater opportunities for student mastery of knowledge, skills, and dispositions.

As we increase the use of enhanced technologies that provide analytics and adaptions, educators need to be cognizant of both the opportunities and the possible negative consequences. We need to be mindful of privacy and security issues, for instance. In addition, it’s very difficult to gauge the success of some technologies when we’re using measures that only look at content growth. In order to truly “Drive Innovation” we need to not only understand the Hurdles, discern the Accelerators for growth, and identify the enabling tools, we must also think what are we really trying to achieve. Is it enough for students to demonstrate proficiency on standards-based assessments? Or do we want to provide our learners with the tools for life-long success so they can continuously learn, relearn, and even unlearn in order to become creative problem-solvers, communicators, and collaborators in a global society?

 

 

 

Driving Innovation: Accelerators

In 2018 the Consortium for Schools Networked (CoSN) transformed the K-12 Horizon Report into The CoSN K-12 Driving Innovation Series with three reports. The reports are based on the work of over 100 educators around the globe who look at emerging technologies through three lenses: Hurdles, Accelerators, and Tech Enablers. As the co-chair of the CoSN Emerging Technologies Committee, I was selected to be part of the process. The Advisory Group engaged in several months of discourse about the major themes driving, hindering, and enabling teaching and learning innovation at schools. After each phase, final thoughts from advisory board members were distilled in surveys discerning the top five topics to feature in each publication.

Currently I’m working with the Emerging Technologies Committee to expand the work of the Advisory Group around Accelerators, in particular Data-Driven Practices.  The CoSN Emerging Technologies Committee felt that all five themes (see graphic) were important, but for the CoSN audience, Data-Driven Practices had the greatest relevance. Plus it has been over three years since CoSN had worked on examples in this area.

According to the Driving Innovation report, data-driven activities can be defined according to this statement: With more engagement, performance, and other kinds of data being collected, schools are leveraging that data to make decisions about curriculum, hiring, technology investments, and more.

CoSN’s previous discussions on Data-Driven Practices focused on administrative issues relating to privacy, security and uses of data to inform instruction, with a major focus on compliance issues relating to No Child Left Behind. Now with the move towards student-centered learning, there’s a growing interest in looking at other ways of using data in the educational arena. The Data Fluency project at Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab is a great example of how data is now viewed as a tool for empowering both educators and student learners.

According to the Mission/Vision statement from the Fluency Project:

Fluency is a process of deep inquiry, case-making, and advocacy. Guided by shared values, we explore how technology and data can serve as tools to enhance the voices of teachers and students. Co-powering teachers and students to be “Fluent” means they can gather information, reconcile it with their personal experience, and influence public discourse. Within this framework, the focus is on creating an individual path for exploration based on self-knowledge, in the context of the world around you. While students will have access to new tools for understanding data and creating compelling media, we believe it is the Fluency process that will lift up their voices, and mold them into critical thinkers and active citizens.

In order to understand how this looks in a K-12 world I interviewed school leaders and teachers from two school districts in the Pittsburgh, PA region who are taking a lead in using data to enhance student agency – Carlynton and Allegheny Valley. The principal of Carlynton Jr/HS, Michael Loughren, introduced me to two of his English teachers who have taken the lead on the Data Fluency project – Kristen Fischer and Wendy Steiner. We don’t usually think about data projects in English. Kristen and Wendy have discovered a new approach give students a voice in their writing, oral and digital communications.

For the study of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, students now analyze the character in relation to episodes of PTSD. They have to find details (data) in the form of repeated words and phrases that supports an argument that Macbeth suffered from PTSD. For another project students had choices of expression for an an oral history project on a self-selected element of family history. The students used a different tool to express themselves – a podcast format. According to Kristen and Wendy there have been a number of benefits. Student work is now always original with no elements of plagiarism. All students are engaged and see a purpose in their writing. According to Michael Loughren the Data Fluency project has deepened and strengthened relationships between teachers and students. In addition, he has witnessed a decrease in the number of discipline problems.

At Allegheny Valley, Brett Slezak, the technology director, has seen similar benefits using the Data Fluency approach. Student voice has been amplified by allowing each student to make their case, which in turn has led to more student engagement. Brent emphasized the importance of using an inquiry-based processed. Students need to start by asking essential questions. At Allegheny Valley the essential question for one high school project was: What is air quality? Why is it important? Students used a SPEC sensor from the CREATE lab to monitor the air quality in multiple classrooms. The students then had to analyze the data and make their case. The problem required the students to “scrub” the data and visually represent what was happening. The students discovered patterns that led to conversations with teachers. The students had to develop a narrative so the data created a story. The students then had to advocate for changes within the classrooms. The students discovered how data revealed solutions for real world problems.

There were more projects that Carlynton and Allegheny Valley teachers created. In every case students voice became amplified. Data provided a way to gain insights into real-world problems. Students discovered that data can be more than numbers. Students took their ideas to new levels by becoming agents of change advocating for solutions to solve real-world challenges.

 

Sustainability for Students

For the past few years I’ve had a chance to work on a variety of projects around Sustainability and Education. In 2016 I initiated a conversation with Chatham University, South Fayette, and Fort Cherry School Districts around Sustainable Issues. This led to the Seeds of Change conference that will occur this year on March 4, 2019 at the Eden Hall campus of Chatham. I have also worked on a variety of Sustainability Design Challenges for the Energy Innovation Center in Pittsburgh with schools from the Parkway West Consortium of Schools. We’ve looked at food, gardening, water management, and energy issues. I’m just beginning to develop Sustainable Energy projects around solar and other sustainable energies with a local Pittsburgh company, AYA Instruments, and the Community Day School of Pittsburgh.

Sustainability projects are also growing worldwide. Birdbrain Technologies, a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off company,  found its way to the 2019 World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland. Each year Salesforce.com sponsors an activity around sustainability and recycling. Here’s a blurb from the Birdbrain Chirps that outlines what happened. (Make sure you check out the video at the end of the article.)

Leaders of over 100 governments and more than 1,000 global businesses came together at this annual meeting to create an agenda to improve the state of the world. And with programming and robotics as a vehicle, students were able to have a seat at the table.

Educator Su Adams from the United Kingdom helped lead students in Salesforce’s Davos Code 2019 event, where they were prompted to create a window display to show how they plan to keep plastics out of the ocean. This display was showcased for leaders to see throughout the course of the forum.

“The learning opportunities reached much further than programming alone can achieve, as students were tasked with turning process-based sentences into a visual representation for their collective diorama,” Adams says.

Prior to the event students began collecting plastics in Davos, which were repurposed into new creations at Davos Code 2019. Students used their own shredder and moulder machines to create their building blocks. With the help of the Hummingbird Robotics Kit, models were brought to life to illustrate their messages about plastic reuse.

This project had a monumental effect outside of the World Economic Forum. “Previously, very little plastic was recycled in the local community,” says Adams. “Following a campaign which spanned just 6 months, students affected change at a local government level when the municipality of Davos provided bins for recycling in their local environment. The diorama provided the perfect medium for celebrating the achievements of their campaign.”

By demonstrating better uses for plastic through their robotics diorama, a sustainable impact was made in the community for generations to come.

Adams summarizes, “There were highs and lows, frustrations and jubilance. Everyone experienced the payback that investment of time, effort, and teamwork provide.”

LEARN MORE by watching this video