Category Archives: Online Learning

HAIS Schools of the Future: IAAK presentations

The Fourth Annual Schools of the Future Conference marks an exciting venture in which the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools and the Hawaii Community Foundation will partner with the Hawaii State Department of Education and Hawaii Society for Technology in Education to offer a not-to-be-missed two-day conference, convening October 23-24, 2012 at the Hawaii Convention Center. This is by far, one of our favorite events of the year! Join us for our Like-Minded session on October 23rd, an informative Q&A lunchtime session around Promethean ActivClassrooms and for our featured presentations:

The ActivClassroom: Effective Teaching with Technology for College and Career Readiness
Presenters: Cheryl Estabillo and Candice Frontiera, It’s All About Kids (Oct 23rd, 1:30-3:00 pm)

Learn to leverage the use of the Promethean ActivClassroom to foster communication, collaboration, inquiry and student centered learning in your classroom. Teachers will learn various strategies to plan interactive lessons and implement authentic assessments that meet the new levels of rigor required with Common Core Standards.

Developing 21st Century Skills in Students and Teachers
Presenter: Karen Talbert, (Oct 23rd, 3:30-5:00 pm)

Whether you’re a novice or a tech expert, learn how easy it is to integrate 21st century skill building into your teaching. EasyTech helps students (and teachers!) efficiently learn technology skills, digital literacy, and higher-order thinking as they study and learn in a manner which is exciting, engaging, and cross curricular. Make sure your students and teachers have the tech and 21st century skills they need to prepare them for the coming adoption of the Common Core Standards and Next Generation Assessments.

The Role of Interactive Technologies in Teaching and Learning
Presenter: Mr. Ginno Kelly, Promethean (Oct 23rd, 10:30-12:00 pm)

As interactive technologies become more ubiquitous in classrooms across the US, the need for the successful integration of these tools is imperative. The words “interactive” and “engaging” have become buzzwords that are sometimes hard to understand. In this session, using examples from the classroom, we will explore what to look for when you hear “interactive” and “engaging” within the context of interactive technologies.

Marzano Research Laboratory’s Enhancing the Art and Science of Teaching with Technology
Presenter: Sonny Magaña, M.Ed (Oct 24th, 10:30-12:00 pm)
The Marzano Research Laboratory (MRL) has benefitted educators and leaders across the country by developing practical research-based strategies on how to improve teaching and learning. In this session, Marzano Research Associate Sonny Magaña will discuss new research-based professional development offerings for education systems to effectively wield technologies to measurably improve pedagogy, academic achievement and student engagement. Dr. Marzano’s Enhancing the Art and Science of Teaching with Technology professional development services for teachers and administrators is designed to help school systems harness the potential of their existing technologies to transform their instructional and evaluation models and better prepare their students for the rigors of 21st Century work and life.

Early bird registration is now available.


Good Idea Grant

With today’s budget constraints, teachers are getting more creative in finding ways to support innovation in their classrooms. A Hawaii teacher we work with was awarded a Good Idea Grant last year and used the funds to integrate technology into her middle school math classroom. We were inspired by her dedication and creativity, and excited about the impact her “good idea” had upon her students.

If you have an exciting curriculum idea that involves your IAAK supported software or hardware solution(s), we want to hear about it! Consider applying for a Good Idea Grant and use our team as a resource to help brainstorm ideas, assist in the application process, and if you achieve success, to support the implementation of your idea!

As stated in the application, “Good Idea Grants are designed to support K-12 teachers and schools in their efforts to encourage a curriculum that is driven by problem-solving, discovery, exploratory learning, and requires students to actively engage a situation in order to find its solution. Students, therefore, become creative, innovative, and critical thinkers”.

Grants up to $3,000 each will be awarded to support innovative programs that strive to increase student interest and academic achievement.

Grants up to $7,500 each will be awarded for the development, improvement or expansion of innovative instructional programs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as well as programs that integrate and apply STEM learning across other disciplines.

Have a good idea? Go for it and let us know how we can help!

Sophia – social teaching

A recent eSchoolNews article highlighted Sophia, a free website that takes Wikipedia to another dimension.  Sophia is a social teaching and learning platform that offers free academic content.  Anyone can register and create “learning packets”, essentially tutorials including a variety of multi-media components to teach a skill or concept.  Visitors can engage in a “Q&A” with the author (and others) around the content, serving as a supplemental source of instruction.

Sophia relies on a dual-review process whereby visitors can rate and review content for usability and appeal and “self-declared subject matter experts” can also rate and review content for accuracy.  When three reviewers have declared the content valid, the learning packet is deemed “academically sound.”  I know, I know, perhaps a little concerning in the K-12 realm but think about the teaching opportunities for emphasizing the concepts of author bias, credibility, purpose, etc.  There is also the option to create a private group (invite only) which would certainly ensure that students only have access to reliable information within the environment.

Recognizing that Sophia is only as good as its content and users, the “Sophia Score” is designed to drive quality activity in the environment by leveraging gaming and social networking appeal.

When you visit the well-designed site be sure to check out the “Sophia for Educators” page.  There, you’ll find great application ideas such as asking students to create learning packets to demonstrate their understanding or asking students to review certain learning packets to determine the accuracy and validity of the information.  Perhaps a new tool or resource for your classroom?


The InnoSight Institute published an interesting (and hefty) report on blended-learning models, describing online learning as a disruptive innovation.  The author analyzes online learning and identifies various forces (bleak budgets, NCLB, the Common Core State Standards initiative, the rise of online curriculum providers, etc.) that contribute to the acceleration of this trend.  “Blended-learning” is defined via a matrix which helps to address the confusion surrounding multiple definitions of the term.  The report profiles 40 blended-learning programs – not necessarily the “top 40” but rather a sampling.  The report also identifies the technology tools/resources utilized by each program.  Click here to read the author’s blog post which summarizes the key findings of the report.

Policy suggestions for digital learning

An Education Week article today features a new report “Digital Learning Now” published by the Digital Learning Council that identifies 10 ways for states to change policy to increase access and equity in digital learning.  Here are the 10 ways:

  1. Make all students eligible to be digital learners.
  2. Give all students access to high-quality online courses and content.
  3. Allow students to customize their learning via online content.
  4. Allow students to advance at their own pace.
  5. Ensure that all online content is high-quality.
  6. Ensure that instruction and teachers are high-quality.
  7. Allow students access to multiple providers of content.
  8. Measure content and instruction by student learning.
  9. Create funding and pay incentives for performance.
  10. Build infrastructure to support digital learning.

While some of the suggestions seem repetitive and somewhat obvious (i.e. high-quality online learning should be self-paced.  That, to me, is a no-brainer.), I like the general sense of empowering the student, making them accountable for their learning.  “Allowing students access to multiple providers of content” is particularly empowering.  Think about this scenario:  A student opts for online learning for algebra.  The student, then, selects from a menu list of providers (all high-quality and ‘pre-approved’ by the school or Hawaii DOE) based on his/her learning preferences (i.e. more video-based lectures and projects versus text-based instruction and multiple-choice tests) and educational needs.  Of course, there needs to be some education for the student to determine how he/she best learns.  The exercise will help the student build his/her metacognitive skills; skills essential to success in life.  And, of course, there needs to be a  teacher or counselor at the school to support the student in making an informed decision as well as to provide ongoing support to the student as he/she completes the course.  Do you think students would feel more ownership of their learning, be more engaged, and perhaps perform at a higher level?

Online teaching best practices – from the K-12 Online Teacher of the Year

The nation’s first-ever K-12 Online Teacher of the Year is Teresa Dove of the Florida Virtual school.  The award was created by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL).  I’m not clear on how the winner was selected (seems like a difficult task!) but I did think Dove’s five best practices are interesting and worth dissecting a bit.  According to Dove, these practices make her effective in an online environment:

  1. Keep the student at the center of every decision that needs to be made.
  2. Foster relationships with students and parents, because parents can be a teacher’s biggest help.
  3. Talk with your students every day by phone.
  4. Celebrate every effort and success, no matter how big or small.
  5. Build relationships with fellow teachers.  Share resources, best practices, and stories to feel less isolated or alone in the home office.

Wait – aren’t these relevant for the traditional classroom as well?  What does this tell us about online learning?  Does it mislead teachers to believe that it is an easy transition from a traditional classroom to an online learning environment?  An online learning environment is actually quite different from a traditional one.  I would love to hear more from Dove about the tools and specific techniques she uses to celebrate success or foster relationships with parents.  Does she leverage social networking tools?  What about tips on how to communicate effectively – over the phone and via email/chats?  We all know that email messages can easily be misinterpreted, causing unnecessary confusion.   There is quite an art to creating a vibrant, enriching community among students who never (or rarely) see each other in person… I’m not sure that is emphasized enough in the eSchool News article and via Dove’s best practices.

What kids learn from digital media

A forum on digital learning was sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, the National Writing Project, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.  The hour webcast of the forum is a little long but presents some interesting big ideas about youth empowerment and digital media creation.  I’ve summarized some of the big ideas here:

  • With today’s technologies and applications, there is a low barrier of entry to create media as well as a world wide reach.  “Universal authorship” is the future.
  • The “potential” exists but need to be intentional in helping all kids become digitally literate.  We could see a “participation gap”.  The responsibility to help kids become digitally literate should not fall solely to schools but requires supporting students in all the spaces they learn (home, libraries, after-school programs, etc.).
  • Four core principles:
    • Re-think the definition of who are teachers – i.e. bring in new media artists into schools, existing teachers can not be expected to teach it all
    • Create bridges between all the spaces where kids spend their time to address students’ feeling of disconnect between school and “real-life”
    • Ensure students have the opportunity to showcase their work – by having real audiences, students will iterate and put forth effort
    • Help students understand the pathways available via digital media – taking a lesson from video games where it is very clear what is required to get to the next level
  • The role of the “adult” (whether that be the teacher, the parent, the mentor, etc.) in guiding and supporting youth in this space is essential and yet, hard to define, especially given the fact that norms and ethics change very quickly.

It’s a lot to digest… and because of this often gets pushed to the side.  However, the power of digital media creation and the overall changing ecology forces us, as educators, to be more thoughtful about engaging students in media creation.  Thinking about these big ideas is a start…

Intelligent Tutors that care too

Ah, the future of artificial-intelligence tutoring looks very cool!  According to a recent article in EdWeek, a new trend in the intelligent-tutoring arena involves integrating social and emotional support.  The concept is simple – “pedagogical agents” (or animated characters) are now able to not only offer content-specific feedback based on students’ responses but also are able to detect students’ emotional changes and mirror those feelings and offer encouragement.  The system picks up students’ emotional states through hundreds of sensors embedded in the computer, students’ chairs (to recognize different postures), as well as through sensors worn like a bracelet around students’ wrists.  In a project developed by the University of Massachusetts and Arizona State, students’ passing rates on state tests were 10 percent higher after a week of lessons with the tutor than they were for peers who spent the same amount of time learning geometry in a regular classroom, according to Beverly Park Woolf, a research professor in computer science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a leading researcher on the project.  More research needs to be conducted but the potential is there.  Major funders of such projects are the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

Online Learning Survey – state by state

The overall news is not entirely new or surprising (although very positive)… online learning continues to grow at a rapid pace. For the second year in a row, Florida was the No. 1 state in online education. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see Hawaii ranked as fourth nationwide!

This data is according to a new survey conducted by the Center for Digital Education (CDE) and titled “Online Learning Policy and Practice Survey: A Survey of the States” “at least 25 states now lead statewide online-learning initiatives… a dramatic increase from the 15 states driving programs only a year ago.” Education officials from 44 states provided insight that informed the report. The CDE ranked state programs looking at key areas such as program offerings, funding, policies, enrollment trends, course offerings, K-20 ventures, teacher licensing, and reform efforts.

The report presents very general information about online learning, tracking trends across states. However, it is not clear how CDE determined state rankings. So, while I’m pleased to see Hawaii in the top ten, I’m not exactly sure why… if you’re interested, you can find the report here.

Q&A with Susan Patrick, CEO of iNACOL

Every time I hear or read Susan Patrick’s thoughts on online learning, I’m impressed.  She always presents real-world case studies and/or research to validate her claims/assertions.  I highly recommend this Q&A – she sums up the potential of online learning to transform education and current challenges very well.  It’s worth a review.