Welcome to our periodic Worthy of Note!
SREB Educational Technology Cooperative
Worthy of Note: February 24, 2014

Prepared by June Weis
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State of the States on Educator Effectiveness
SREB, February 12, 2014
Teacher compensation, training, hiring and professional development are prominent in governors' opening 2014 speeches.

In several recent 2014 State of the State addresses in SREB states, governors outlined broad educational priorities in pre-K, K-12 and higher education, with some proposing policy changes related to educator effectiveness in particular.

Educator effectiveness is all about producing the best outcomes for students, while supporting teachers at every stage of their professional journey. Research shows that teachers are the single most important factor in a child’s success in school, outside of family and home influences. Educator effectiveness policies and practices address teacher preparation, professional development, compensation and evaluation, with the aim of enhancing classroom experiences and learning opportunities for students. 


Competency-Based Learning

WCET Predictions for 2014 Focus on Academic Quality and Student Needs
Russ Poulin, WCET
We asked you to: “Predict something that will happen this year regarding teaching, learning, technology, business of e-learning, policy, regulations, student behavior, or other related items.”
Mike Abbiatti made this suggestion (read other suggestions in the article): The Year of Competencies! I predict that 2014 will be the year that competency-based education will be clearly defined and embraced by the K-20 e-learning community. In this context Career and Technical Education initiatives will receive significant attention.
Mike Abbiatti, Director, SREB Educational Technology Cooperative
Competencies are Exciting! I wholeheartedly agree with your prediction, Mike!
Thoughts on the Experimental Site Authority Concept Paper
Matt Reed, Inside Higher Ed, January 23, 2014
A consortium of seventeen colleges and universities has submitted a concept paper to the Department of Education, petitioning for “experimental site authority” for their campuses to keep financial aid eligibility while moving to competency-based education.  Read more of this article, and it is followed by Seeking Answers on ‘Competency’, Paul J. LeBlanc, Inside Higher Ed, January 30, 2014
Inside Competency-Based Degrees
John K. Waters, Campus Technology, December 18, 2013
Under pressure to deliver more bang for the buck, traditional schools are launching competency-based degree programs that reward life experiences and give students demonstrable skills.
Two new briefing papers from
A K-12 Federal Policy Framework for Competency Education: Building Capacity for Systems Change
Worthen and Pace, Competency Works, February 2014
Progress and Proficiency: Redesigning Grading for Competency Education
Chris Sturgis, Competency Works, January 2014


Professional Development

Research Suggests Professional Development Delivers Better Student Scores
Dian Schaffhauser, THE Journal, February 11, 2014
When teachers participate in professional development, students do better in assessments. That's the conclusion of a study undertaken by researchers at the University of Utah and Brigham Young University.


NMC Horizon Report

2014 Higher Education Edition
Launched in 2002, the NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition is the flagship publication in the NMC Horizon Report series. The Higher Education Edition examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in the higher education environment.
Comparing Ed Tech Trends via the Horizon Project in Higher to K-12
Amy Murin, Keeping Pace, February 20, 2014
The New Media Consortium Horizon Project looks at educational technology trends in three different arenas: K-12, higher education, and museums; its latest release focuses on ed tech in higher education in three different categories: trends accelerating ed tech adoption, challenges impeding ed tech adoption, and important developments in ed tech.
The report first looks at trends that are accelerating ed tech adoption, and the pace at which they expect those trends to take hold. Amy Murin looks at trends that parallel activity Keeping Pace is seeing in K-12.
The NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition
And check out the You Tube version….



Are robots outsmarting us?
PBS Newshour, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, February 13, 2014
Actually, it turns out they’re finally here: humiliating us at Jeopardy, driving us from the Redwood Forest to the Gulfstream waters, running our lives online as software “bots.” Famous as a someday threat to factory jobs, robots (from the Czech “robota” — drudgery or serf labor) are about to give almost all of us human workers a run for our money. As a result, we live in the “The Second Machine Age,” according to authors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. Read editorial comments about this report in the New York Times Innovation, Optimism and Jobs (Joe Nocera, February 13, 2014)


Common Core

The Real Problem with US Common Core: It Further Outsources Education  (Opinion)
Ana Marie Cox, Common Dreams, February 11, 2014
New York is the latest to revolt against Common Core. What’s especially scary is more business intrusion into the classroom.
I’m not disturbed by the intrusion of the federal government into our schools, but the intrusion of capitalism. Perhaps the most alarming report out of New York wasn't how badly students were doing on the tests, but that Pearson Inc. “included corporate logos and promotional material in reading passages”. The slippery-slopers of the right worry about biometric testing for government-selected vocations; I worry about replacing education with a 13-year-long focus group.


Achieving ConnectED Goals Remains Urgent Priority
Douglas Levin, SEDTA, January 31, 2014
“SEDTA remains committed to working with the Obama Administration, the FCC, the U.S. Congress and in partnership with like-minded organizations to ensure that the needs identified in the launch of the ConnectED Initiative are not addressed in a piecemeal manner, but meaningfully and comprehensively.”
How will EducationSuperHighway help schools get the Internet access they need? We plan to upgrade America’s K-12 schools by:
  1. Taking the first-ever national inventory of the Internet infrastructure currently deployed in every K-12 public school.
  2. Providing technical expertise to the large number of schools that don’t have the resources to implement 100Mbps+ efficiently.
  3. Lowering the cost of infrastructure for schools through pricing transparency and demand aggregation.
  4. Using data and analyses to ensure that FCC’s $2.5 billion annual investment in school telecommunications and Internet infrastructure (E-Rate program) has the maximum impact on solving this pressing need.
The Connectivity Gap
72% of K-12 schools have insufficient Internet access. Over 40 million students in America’s K-12 schools are being left behind. To get digital learning content to the classroom, we need fast connections and robust networks, but 72% of schools don’t have adequate Internet infrastructure for the current needs, let alone the future. We call this lack of available bandwidth in the classroom The Connectivity Gap.
Inadequate connectivity and network bottlenecks limit the data coming into the classroom, preventing students and educators from accessing content and applications reliably. This can be a result of slow Internet connections, old wired and wireless network hardware, limited networking expertise, or misconfigured devices.
This myriad of problems mean that Internet access is rationed to our students and teachers, and the K-12 schools most in need must limit which tools they use instead of taking advantage of the full potential of digital learning.
Obama’s ConnectED Initiative Gets Major FCC, Corporate Financial Support
Michele Molnar, Education Week, Education Week, February 14, 2014
It almost sounded like President Obama’s ConnectED initiative won a lottery earlier this month. In the same speech, he announced $2 billion in repurposed funding from the Federal Communications Commission’s E-rate program to connect more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students to high-speed broadband, and a donation of $750 million in goods and services from seven companies for schools and students.
The president officially announced this K-12 boost as part of a speech before students, educators, and company executives at Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Md., on Feb. 4, shedding the spotlight on the ConnectED initiative to provide 99 percent of the nation’s schools with high-speed broadband technology within five years. The $2 billion, which is supposed to “flow to” schools sometime in 2014, was characterized as a “down payment” on reaching this goal.
The real problem with school Internet
Meris Stansbury, eSchool News, February 21, 2013
Federal funding only goes so far for Internet and infrastructure; here’s how states and communities are helping. According to EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit that tests school broadband speeds and works to upgrade Internet access, an estimated 72 percent of public schools have connections that are too slow for digital learning.



FCC Chairman Vows to Build a Better E-Rate Program
Sean Cavanagh, Education Week, Digital Education February 5, 2014
The head of the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday pledged to clear aside bureaucratic clutter and make it easier for schools and libraries to secure E-rate funding for the most useful technologies — while also saying the agency will wait before considering a major infusion of new money for the program.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, speaking at an event held in Washington for national Digital Learning Day, reiterated plans put forward earlier this week to double the amount the agency provides to schools and libraries for high-speed broadband, a $2 billion increase over two years.
Read Wheeler’s immediate steps to improve the E-rate that would apply to funding applications rolling in now.

Google Glass

4 ways educators are using Google Glass in the classroom
Claire Schillings, edcetera, February 5, 2014
With the emergence of Google Glass onto the gadget scene, tech-lovers everywhere are itching to get their hands on the famous eyewear. The most surprising place these tech tools are showing up? The classroom.
Professors and teachers across the country are turning to Google Glass, using the device to educate students and inspire learning innovation. Here are four of our favorite ways classrooms like yours are carving a space for Google Glass in the curriculum.


Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality, Classroom Reality, and Ending the “Range War”
Mike Abbiatti, SREB (for WCET), January 30, 2014
Thank you to Mike Abbiatti from the Southern Regional Education Board for giving us his take on Net Neutrality. Recently a federal court in the U.S. struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s right to enforce net neutrality regulations because the Internet service providers are not “common carriers.” — Russ Poulin
The core messages to be remembered from reading this article are:
1) There is significant potential impact of Net Neutrality on education, and
2) We must end the continuous feud between the education community and commercial Internet providers i.e. the “Range War” over who should provide affordable bandwidth to schools.
A Second Wind for Net Neutrality: FCC Chairman Proposes New Rules
Dian Schaffhauser, THE Journal, February 20, 2014
Tom Wheeler is fighting back against his latest net neutrality court loss. Yesterday, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed new rules for preventing what he called “improper blocking of and discrimination among Internet traffic.”
Democrats Introduce Open Internet Preservation Act To Restore Net Neutrality
Alex Wilhelm,, February 3, 2014
Democrats in the House and Senate today introduced the Open Internet Preservation Act, a bill that would reinstate now-defunct net neutrality rules that were shot down last month. The Preservation Act — full text here — is short and merely “restores” what was “vacated” by the court’s decision. So it would take us back to where we were in December.
Public to FCC: Don't Give Up On Open Internet
Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams, January 30, 2014
Over one million sign petition urging FCC to “reassert its clear authority” to protect net neutrality.


Big Data

6 ways Big Data is changing higher education
Michael Sharnoff, eCampus News, February 4, 2014
Big Data is being used in colleges and universities to help optimize student performance and streamline their path toward a degree. But not everybody agrees with this controversial practice.


The Cloud

Why you shouldn’t trust your data to “the cloud”
David Pogue, Scientific American (posted in Salon), February 5, 2014
In the guise of convenience, tech giants are making it harder to keep data between just you and your hard drive. At one point, the phrase “in the cloud” probably meant something useful and specific. These days, though, it has just become a buzzy marketing term for “the Internet.” “Your files are safely stored in the cloud!” “You can send video messages through the cloud!” “You can order books from the cloud!”
You mean the Internet? Oh.


Free Education?

Tennessee Governor Urges 2 Free Years of Community College and Technical School
Richard Perez-Pena, New York Times, February 4, 2014
Public colleges have sharply raised their prices since the 1990s in the face of declining state support, but a plan by Tennessee’s governor to make two years of community college and technical school free for all students represents a striking reversal of that trend.


Online Learning

Exactly How Many Students Take Online Courses? 
Steve Kolowich, Wired Campus, January 16, 2014
We know that online education went mainstream years ago. Academic leaders believe it will become even more prevalent in the coming years. But how many American students are taking at least one online course right now? The answer, according to the latest figures from the Babson Survey Research Group, is about 7.1 million. Or is it?
The Need for Greater Productivity through Online Learning, Part 1
Tony Bates for WCET, January 21, 2014
Over the last few months I have been doing a series of blog posts on my own site on this topic (for a full list, see the end of this post). In these two specially commissioned posts for the WCET Frontiers blog, I will summarize the main points raised in this series. In this post I focus on main concepts and principles; in the second post I discuss promising areas where online learning could improve the productivity of higher education.
The Need for Greater Productivity through Online Learning, Part 2
Tony Bates for WCET, January 23, 2014
In my previous post for WCET’s Frontiers blog, I outlined why productivity is an important issue for online learning, and laid out some of the main concepts and principles that need to be considered in any discussion of productivity and online learning. In particular, it is important to be able to identify and measure appropriate outputs for education, as well as costs or inputs, and their relationships. In this post, I want to discuss some possible ways in which online learning could be used to increase the productivity of the post-secondary education system.
Read reactions to Tony Bates’ thoughts here.
The Most-Needed Competency for Online Instructors
Academic Impressions, January 17, 2014
Faculty development experts Larry Ragan, Brian Redmond, and Susan Ko comment on what recent research has revealed about a key competency for online instructors — and practical strategies for how instructors can develop it.
Three Outstanding Tools to Help Online Students Be Successful
online learning insights, February 7, 2014
This post reviews three stellar tools available online for free that help students [online and face-to-face] study individually or in groups, organize course notes and materials, focus on key content areas—learn more efficiently, and effectively.


New Learning Technologies

Obama Administration Calls for Input on Accelerating New Learning Technologies
David Nagel, THE Journal, January 15, 2014
According to information published by the administration today, OSTP is looking to expand the incentive mechanism used on with an emphasis specifically on learning technologies. The office sent a request for information to a number of organizations, including state and local education agencies, asking them “what roles they would be willing to play in the design, funding, and implementation of pull mechanisms for learning technology.”
Some technologies cited as examples by OSTP included:
  • Technologies that would decrease the “vocabulary gap” between wealthy and poor students;
  • Tools to help American students outperform their international counterparts in math and science tests;
  • ELL supports;
  • Programs that would certify the skills or cognitive abilities of students who are not college-bound but might need such certifications for their jobs; and
  • Math remediation for community college students.
Tech Trends
What's Hot, What's Not 2014
David Raths, Campus Technology, January 23, 2014
5 IT thought leaders take the temperature of the biggest tech trends in higher education.
5 K-12 Tech Trends To Watch in 2014
Bridget McCrea, THE Journal, February 6, 2014
With technology advancing at an increasingly rapid pace, keeping up with what's new and hot on the educational side is no easy task. To help IT directors, administrators and teachers stay up-to-date with the changes, THE Journal talked to users in the field about what's happening now and what's coming down the pike during the year ahead.



NC-SARA: National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements
U.S. Department of Education selects representatives from WCET and NC-SARA for negotiated rulemaking committee
Submitted by lgreco on Monday, February 10, 2014
Russ Poulin has been selected by the U.S. Department of Education as a representative for upcoming negotiated rulemaking sessions to review proposed regulations concerning program integrity and improvement issues for the Federal Student Aid programs. Poulin serves as interim co-executive director and deputy director, research and analysis for WCET (WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies). He and Marshall Hill, who has previously served on three such rulemaking sessions, will represent the field of distance education in the process.
Hill is executive director of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), which provides a voluntary, regional approach to state oversight of postsecondary distance education. Both Poulin and Hill work at the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE).  Read more ...
Reference Getting to Know Sara (Marshall A. Hill)

3-D Printing

3-D Printing Moves Closer to the Mainstream
Nick Bilton, New York Times (blog), January 20, 2014
While we’ve been talking about 3-D printing for the last few years, 2014 might be the year these devices actually move closer to becoming a mainstream reality. Until now, the software has been one of the larger barriers to using 3-D printers, but even that became easier when Adobe announced last week that it was integrating 3-D printing into Photoshop CC.



Math Bits is devoted to offering fun, yet challenging, lessons and activities in secondary (and college level) mathematics and computer programming for students and teachers. Created by two mathematics teachers.
5 Tips to Help Teachers Who Struggle with Technology
Josh Work’s Blog, Edutopia, February 3, 2014
If you plan on introducing a new technology or are embarking on the mighty task of becoming a wireless BYOD school, here are five tips to help your teachers still struggling with technology.
SociaLogic: How to Cite Tweets in Academia or eLearning
AJ Walther, Iconologic, December 13, 2013
The President has a Twitter account. So does the Pope. It makes sense that eventually someone important is going to use this social outlet to say something that you'd like to include in an academic paper or maybe even in your eLearning. But how do you do that? 
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