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.

 

Technology and the Future of Work

Every day there seems to be a new report about the future of work. Will most jobs be replaced by robots? How will artificial intelligence impact future careers? The answers vary depending on the source and the underlying presuppositions. In November I had a chance to join over 150 educational and community leaders for a Career Readiness Summit sponsored by Remake Learning in Pittsburgh. According to Remake Learning, the event was a chance to “analyze the current state of workforce development, share promising practices, and build the partnerships required to prepare students for a changing world.” The keynote for the event was Tom Vander Ark. Tom addressed a variety of issues but focused on the impact of artificial intelligence on the future of work.

Remake Learning highlighted on their website the key implications that Tom made about career readiness for students today. These included the ability to:

  • navigate projects and work in teams, as the majority will be freelancers by 2027,
  • contribute to the economy through human judgement, creativity, empathy, social interaction, and innovative mindset,
  • work computationally and across disciplines, and
  • upskill continuously as the economy and required skills will change at a more rapid rate than ever.

Much of Tom’s references came from his research for his new project, “Ask About AI: The Future of Work.” While industries like medicine and law grabble with the implications of Artificial Intelligence in their business practices, education has not really begun to address the impact of AI on learning. Tom and the Getting Smart Team spent two years studying the implications of AI and came to the following conclusion: “machine intelligence turbocharged by big data and enabling technologies like robotics is the most significant change force facing humanity.”

To follow Tom Vander Ark and his team as they continue to document this trend, use the hashtag #AskAboutAI.

VR, AR, and the Internet of Things: Life Beyond Second Life

[According to this Campus Technology interview with Phil Repp, the VP for IT at Ball State, there are many new opportunities to view ancient ruins, use simulations in the health sciences, or understand the mechanics of flight using AR/VR.]

By Mary Grush 12/06/16

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It gets even more interesting when virtual and augmented reality meet the Internet of Things.”  — Phil Repp

Ball State University has been exploring virtual reality since the early days of Second Life. Here, CT talks with Vice President for Information Technology Phil Repp about how our hyper reality has changed, with more advanced virtual reality, augmented reality, the ability to work in HD, the inclusion of the IoT and datasets, and the increasing accessibility of related tools and devices.

Mary Grush: When did Ball State University start working with virtual reality and related technologies, and why was that priority for you?

Phil Repp: Our own efforts in VR began in the mid-90s and grew out of the need to have greater visualization of ideas in many of our disciplines on campus.

Grush: Hadn’t there been strides in visualization in some disciplines much earlier than that?

Repp: Ways to visualize ideas has been a kind of search for a very long time, particularly in the design disciplines. You can even find it dating back to the 15th century in examples like Filippo Brunelleschi, who invented perspective: He didn’t like the idea of flat drawings of his buildings, so he learned how to show dimension through perspective. And there have been stages in various disciplines over time — e.g., mathematics and the sciences — where discipline-specific visualization tools took several steps forward.

So the search for better visualization of ideas has been on for centuries, but recently technology has taken it to a whole different level. And VR can both span disciplines and offer an intuitive experience.

For us at Ball State University, when technology tools started to get more sophisticated and VR became more generally available — you remember the early days of Second Life, for example — that’s when we began experimenting with the hyper reality of representing and visualizing ideas.

Soon we were using many 3D tools, virtual reality, and augmented reality to move ourselves toward the ability to represent things in a way that would be closer to what’s in a person’s mind’s eye in sharing and communicating an idea.

Read more…