Welcome to our periodic Worthy of Note!
SREB Educational Technology Cooperative
Worthy of Note: April 25, 2015
Prepared by June Weis


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It’s been fun while it has lasted – about fourteen years – but this my last Worthy of Note (WON). I’m finally joining the world of the retired, the second time. It has been a great run – with Bill Thomas, Myk Garn and Mike Abbiatti. Finally, Wanda Barker has joined the team, and I’m leaving her to her own plans. I wish you well, Wanda, and I will be around for whatever requests you may have. I am told the Worthy of Note will continue, so watch for new versions to come your way soon.  

                                    June Weis



SREB—Updates from the States


Tracking Statewide Policy Actions in SREB States
Bookmark this page for regular updates from SREB State Services staff on current policy actions and proposals from governors, legislatures and education agencies in the region — and be sure to let us hear from you about what’s happening in your state. Email Jeffrey Grove >


Digital Learning

Keeping Pace with K-12 Digital Learning 2014
Evergreen Education Group, February 2015
A focus on blended and online learning

Digital learning is replacing the previous reference to online and blended learning. This seemingly small word change signifies a significant evolution in the landscape, and a major change in the way we are analyzing and reporting on it. A small but growing number of school districts were also beginning to establish full-time online programs accessible to students regionally and across individual states. An ever-increasing amount of online learning activity developed inside individual schools and districts, as an ever-increasing number of students were taking online courses from within their own districts instead of from state virtual schools and virtual charter schools. Schools have begun to combine an online or digital content component with regular face-to-face classroom instruction in new and unique ways. In many cases, the classroom configuration and the bell schedule were unchanged. In some cases, the instructional approach and learning spaces were reconfigured to take advantage of the benefits of combining digital content and instructional management software with face-to-face teacher and student collaboration. This report analyzes these changes.

Online Coursetaking Evolving Into Viable Option for Special Ed.
Michelle R. Davis, Education Week, March 31, 2015
As new technologies allow digital lessons to be tailored to various learning styles, a growing number of programs are evolving to enable students with disabilities to take online courses created with their needs in mind.

While such options are still not readily available for most students in special education, virtual programs are being seen as a means to fill gaps in special education services in cost-effective ways.


Rural Education and Blended Learning

Transforming K–12 Rural Education through Blended Learning: Teacher Perspectives
INACOL, Paula Kellerer, et al, December 2014
The potential for blended learning to transform the education system and enable higher levels of learning through competency-based approaches is significant. Several early studies are highlighting the effectiveness of pioneering schools and models. While longitudinal studies are underway to provide a more comprehensive picture of academic achievement and other measures, it is important to provide frequent examinations to cultivate emerging practice in the field from educators regarding the transformation of their practice.


This qualitative study was developed to investigate and share the perspectives of rural educators transitioning to blended learning and paints a powerful picture of the effects new learning models have on teachers, students, and expanding learning environments. A theme of transformation runs throughout this work—transformed engagement, transformed roles for both teacher and student, transformed expectations for learning, transformed use of time and place. It is this transformation that is central to the shift toward personalized learning for every student through blended, online, and competency-based learning pathways. iNACOL’s mission includes a mandate to support the ongoing work of researchers studying the field of innovative practice in K–12 education. This report from partners at Northwest Nazarene University’s Doceo Center, the Idaho Digital Learning Academy (IDLA), Michigan Virtual University (MVU), and members of the iNACOL Research Committee provides meaningful insights necessary to inform and equip the field with an understanding of what is emerging and where we need to go.


Virtual Learning and Research


Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2015: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence
Alex Molnar et al, NEPC, March 10, 2015
This 2015 report is third in a series of annual reports on virtual education in the U.S. It is organized in three major sections. Section I examines the policy and political landscape associated with virtual schooling and describes the current state of affairs related to finance and governance, instructional program quality, and teacher quality. The authors analyze to what extent, if any, policy in the past year has moved toward or away from their 2014 recommendations. Based on an analysis of legislative development across all states, the authors find that troubling issues continue to outpace informed policy.


The 2014 report: Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2014: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence
Alex Molnar, NEPC National Education Policy Center, March 4, 2014
Although this is one year old, it also provides information in this pursuit of research on digital learning.

Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2014 Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence
Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, February 2015
A comprehensive analysis of all proposed and enacted virtual school legislation in 50 states during the 2012 and 2013 legislative sessions enables tracking whether legislative trends reflect a legislative focus on strengthening accountability and oversight of virtual school.

The signal and the noise in blended learning research
John Watson, Keeping Pace, April 14, 2015
“The Signal and the Noise” is the title of the book by renowned data geek Nate Silver, whose understanding of probability and statistics has allowed him to make a living playing poker, predict numerous election results with far more accuracy than other pundits, and parlay his knowledge into a successful blogging career. In the book Silver discusses
topics as varied as baseball and climate change, exploring the ways data should be used. In presidential elections, for example, he might point out that a poll on the website of Fox News is “noise” (because it’s a self-selecting sample of a biased audience), but that within the dozen legitimate polls coming out of Ohio there is a pretty good signal that one candidate has the lead—even though some polls will show the other candidate winning.

The signal and the noise is also a pretty good description of the state of research into digital learning. A recent article from Education Week would have us believe that Blended Learning Research Yields Limited Results. On the surface, the article’s observations are accurate. But the article focuses on the many issues that obscure what is happening in digital learning (the noise), while shortchanging the issues that are becoming more clear in digital learning (the signal).  Read about legitimate sources of noise in digital learning.


Findings on virtual courses offered by large districts in Brookings’ educational choice research
John Watson, Keeping Pace, February 26, 2015 The Brookings Institution recently released its 2014 Education Choice and Competition Index, which scores each of the 100 largest school districts (plus seven others based on their choice policies) in the United States based on a variety of factors related to choice and competition. One of the elements is “accessibility of Virtual Courses.” The rating is based on three factors:

A) Does the district have publicly available policies allowing students to enroll in a variety of virtual courses that count towards graduation or matriculation?

B) Is at least 2%* of the total student population enrolled in at least one virtual course; and

C) Are no substantial costs borne by the student or family?

Connecting Youth: Digital Learning Research Project
New York University, 2015 (Principal Investigator: Richard Arum)
The Connecting Youth: Digital Learning Research Project is a longitudinal, multi-method study of the youth, educators, and organizations involved in these innovations. The project’s team of twenty-plus researchers hails from universities across the country and brings diverse disciplinary lenses such as sociology, education, information and technology studies, and psychology to bear on our research questions. These include (but are not limited to) the following:


  • What are the characteristics of youth participating in the study programs and schools (e.g., demographics, socioeconomic status and academic performance)?
  • How do participants interact with and access digital media and communication technologies in their everyday lives?
  • How do participants' attitudes, behaviors, and competencies in the area of digital technology and learning change?
  • How do changes in behaviors and attitudes toward digital technology and learning vary based on program characteristics (e.g. size, cost, pedagogical style and type of activity offered) as well as student characteristics (e.g., gender, race and parent education)?

Educator and organizational-level:

  • How are the programs understood and implemented in schools and partnering cultural organizations?
  • What resources do educators draw on in accomplishing their work and what barriers and obstacles do they identify?
  • To what extent is institutional change evident in relationship to the programs and the networks of innovations that they aim to promote?

The purpose of this research has been to document activities and outcomes associated with these programs, use the findings to provide ongoing feedback to these implementing organizations for formative program improvement, as well as publish scholarship to improve academic and public understanding of the potential role of digital media in supporting youth development and educational outcomes.  This research was made possible by the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Virtual Schooling and Student Learning; Evidence from the Florida Virtual School
Matthew M. Chingos and Guido Schwerd, Harvard Kennedy School, September 2014
Online education options have proliferated in recent years, with significant growth occurring at state-sponsored virtual schools. However, there is no prior credible evidence on the quality of virtual courses compared to in-person courses in U.S. secondary education. We compare the performance of students who took core courses in algebra and English at their traditional public high school to the performance of students who took the same courses through the Florida Virtual School, the largest state virtual school in the U.S. We find that FLVS students are positively selected in terms of prior achievement and demographics, but perform about the same or somewhat better on state tests once their pre-high-school characteristics are taken into account. We find little evidence of treatment effect heterogeneity across a variety of student subgroups, and no consistent evidence of negative impacts for any subgroups. Differences in spending between the sectors suggest the possibility of a productivity advantage for FLVS.

Florida Virtual School Research
Florida Virtual School welcomes research on online learning and has provided guidelines for proposed research projects. This resource lists research that has been performed through FLVS.  If you are interested in conducting research in online learning, click here to learn more. ALL research submissions go through a review process at FLVS. Please note that due to the number of research requests, we normally don't take course-assignment level requests.

Schools Test Impact of Blending Technology, Longer School Days
Michele R. Davis, Education Week, February 3, 2015

A new guide for educators says the pairing of blended learning and an expanded school day—much like what is happening at Grant Beacon—hits the educational sweet spot, providing opportunities for better teacher collaboration, personalization of education, and student engagement.


The guide, "Supporting Student Success Through Time and Technology"—released last month by the National Center on Time & Learning, a research and advocacy organization based in Boston—aims to give policymakers ideas for how to combine extra learning time and better use of digital tools in smart, effective ways. Combining the two practices is seen as key.


SEDTA Guides


The Guide to Technology Requirements
One Simple Guide for Tech Requirements for Assessment
Find your state. Supports Windows, Macs and Linux.

The Guide to Implementing Digital Learning
Supporting states and school districts in successful digital learning implementation

With the influx of new technology and increased connectivity, focused strategic planning is more important than ever to ensure digital learning opportunities for all students and educators. Most school districts have made investments in technology equipment, bandwidth and networking, training teachers and supporting both the technology and those using it. Many are looking at upgrading and expanding their use of technology either because of a specific initiative such as online assessment or for a broader push to a 1 to 1 program to accomplish specific school improvement goals. There are a number of factors for districts to consider as they embark upon this effort, key among them being planning, professional learning, software and digital content, broadband, devices, pedagogy and technology support.

This resource is intended to provide guidance for districts to consider as they heighten their focus to ensure smooth implementation of digital learning. In addition, this resource includes proven resources and digital learning examples from across the nation to support discussions.


Distance Education (Higher Ed)


Report: Distance Education Is Here to Stay
Colin Wood, Center for Digital Education, February 5, 2015
A new survey shows that while not all higher education faculties like distance learning, it has become entrenched and is part of education throughout the nation.  (The survey follows.)


Grade Level: Tracking Online Education in the United States, 2014  Online Learning Consortium (formerly the
Sloan Consortium) Grade Level: Tracking Online Education in the United States is the twelfth annual report on the state of online learning in U.S. higher education. The 2014 Survey of Online Learning conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group and co-sponsored by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), Pearson and Tyton Partners, reveals the number of higher education students taking at least one distance education course in 2014 is up 3.7 percent from the previous year. While this represents the slowest rate of increase in over a decade, online enrollment growth far exceeded that of overall higher education. Read the key findings.

Creating Connection: Driving Learner Success with Smart Machines
Colleen Carmean | Assistant Chancellor for Instructional Technologies and Director of Institutional Research, University of Washington Tacoma. The Evolllution, April 8, 2015.
New-traditional students are older, working, diverse and often unprepared for the rigor and self-regulation of college. [1] This is the majority of students attending our campus at the University of Washington Tacoma. They are time-stressed by jobs, families and complex responsibilities seldom seen in previous generations of learners. How does a campus change to accommodate learning needs and preferences of students now in higher education? How do we leverage emerging technologies to provide meaning and value to the learner?
Technology will be the game changer in higher education. It can break down the silos and division of data and move us from parallel business operations to cooperation and partnership among faculty, advisors, student support services and business operations.


MOOCs and Research


Surveying the MOOC Landscape
Carl Straumsheim, Inside Higher Ed., April 2, 2015
If massive open online course offerings from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could be described as a city, then computer science would be its vibrant downtown core, surrounded by less densely populated but no less characteristic neighborhoods of STEM, humanities and social sciences courses.


That city continues to grow, researchers at the two institutions are finding, but the challenges of taking MOOCs beyond the experimental stage will require more work than improving a single metric, be it the completion rate, proportion of female learners or bachelor's degree holders, they say. Harvard and M.I.T. on Wednesday released what researchers there called “one of the largest investigations of massive open online courses (MOOCs) to date” -- an analysis of 68 MOOCs, 1.7 million learners, 10 million hours of activity and 1.1 billion logged events. The report covers MOOCs offered by the two institutions between July 24, 2012, and Sept. 21, 2014, through edX, a MOOC provider they co-founded.



Social Media Directory
Exchange ideas and engage in interactive dialogue with your peers by participating in EDUCAUSE social media.


Top 10 IT Issues
For 15 years, higher education IT leaders have used the EDUCAUSE Top 10 IT Issues to calibrate their IT-related activities and inform their strategic planning. 


State Authorization


What Can Happen If I Don’t Follow State Authorization Regulations?
Russell Poulin, WCET
Those of us in WCET’s State Authorization Network (SAN) and in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (NC-SARA) leadership often get asked the questions:

  • “Does anyone really enforce ‘state authorization’ in the U.S.?”
  • “Why don’t I read in the higher education news about colleges being fined for ‘state authorization’ violations?”

WCET provides some answers.


Digital Literacy


Where Does Our Digital Literacy Come From?
Eric Stoller, Inside Higher Ed, March 26, 2015 
Our ability to navigate the electronic waters of devices (both mobile and not-so-mobile), applications, and digital solutions is honed on a daily basis through formal learning experiences, autodidactic problem solving, social media engagement, errant mouse (or trackpad) clicks, Google searches, and CMD + Z.

When we're hired, it's rare that our digital literacy will be assessed. And, perhaps even more telling, after we've been in our jobs for a bit, there's no rubric or measurement to see if we've grown more digitally literate. Some individuals who happen to lean towards a digital lifelong learning literacy track will be on a continuous journey of learning about new technologies, new apps, new services, and new ways that technology can enhance or improve their daily routines. While others will seem to be somewhat frozen in their ability to take on a bit more mental (or temporal) bandwidth with regards to the latest social media platform or a new update to their tried-and-true operating system.

Perhaps it's time to create assessments for higher education professionals that measure their digital literacy journey?


21st Century Classroom

Re-Defining the 21st Century Classroom
Jessica Renee Napier, Center for Digital Technology, April 8, 2015
The landscape of classroom learning is shifting, and with it, districts, schools and teachers are learning new pedagogy to support a 21st century education through digital learning.

“The technology can allow for barriers to be broken down,” said Thomas Murray, state and district digital learning director at the Alliance for Excellent Education. “However, technology in and of itself doesn’t change high-quality instruction.”

To ensure effective use of digital learning, the Alliance for Excellent Education and the U.S. Department of Education developed the Future Ready District Pledge with the support of the Leading Education by Advancing Digital Commission. Superintendents who sign the pledge commit to ensuring that digital learning curriculum aligns with instructional best practices, that trained teachers facilitate such content, and that there are personalized learning experiences for all students.

Classroom Technology: Effective Instructional Tools for an Evolving Learning Landscape
Center for Digital Technology, March 25, 2015
This CDE Special report serves as a guide for education decision-makers on how to effectively implement, integrate and support familiar and new classroom technologies to achieve 21st-century learning goals. It provides potential solutions to the challenges institutions encounter when implementing classroom technology on a large scale by highlighting best practices and success stories, as well as recent results from recent CDE surveys distributed to K-20 education decision-makers nationwide.


Common Core


Common Core Critics Are Loud But Losing
Alan Greenblatt, Governing, April 2015
The nationwide pushback against the education standards hasn't been very successful. Common Core has become a toxic brand, the most contentious issue on the education landscape, reviled by partisans at both ends of the political spectrum.

That doesn’t mean it’s going away.

For all the pushback against the Common Core -- a set of standards that outline the content and skills students are expected to master at each grade level -- more than 40 states are still on board. Efforts to repeal the Common Core this year in Arkansas and Mississippi, for instance, led instead to commissions that will study the issue. According to Michael Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute …”to get Republican legislators to repeal the Common Core has only been successful in Oklahoma.

Why Colleges Should Care About the Common Core
Harold G. Levine & Michael W. Kirst, Education Week, April 19, 2015
Now that the Common Core State Standards in English/language arts and mathematics have been adopted in much of the country, states are busy with their implementation. We have no doubt that, over time, these new K-12 standards will produce larger numbers of college-ready (and career-ready) students—as promised. College-bound freshmen can expect to head off to their colleges of choice ready for the deeply engaging learning experiences that await them.

Or can they? We are concerned that the common-core learning experiences of these students can be a bridge to a more enriching educational experience only if the colleges and universities...Read more with membership.


No Need for College Textbooks?

Community College Proves that Schools Don't Need Textbooks
Colin Wood, Center for Digital Education, March 26, 2015
Open education resources have been around for more than a decade, and schools are finally starting to run with it. The international foot race is about to begin! Ready… set… wait… none of the Americans are wearing shoes. This is the state of education today. Many students can’t afford textbooks, so they go without, and the entire nation suffers the costs of an under-educated populace. But the open educational resources (OER) movement is picking up speed, and Virginia's Tidewater Community College (TCC) is proving that new models of open education can work.


TCC calls it the Z-Degree program, where the z stands for zero, as in zero textbooks. Launched in Fall 2013, the Z-Degree program uses OER to allow students a 25 percent savings on the first two years of a degree in business administration. Linda Williams, a professor of business administration and project lead, said she’s never claimed that OEM is the best model, but points out that the results they’ve pioneered speak for themselves. Read more….


Competency Education

23 Groups Call for Innovative Assessment Flexibility in ESEA Reauthorization
Marie Worthen, Competency Works, April 14, 2015
This week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will begin consideration of a bill to rewrite No Child Left Behind. The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 is a bipartisan bill authored by the HELP Committee’s Chairman Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray.


In this bill there are a number of things of interest to the field of competency education; among them, an Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority that would allow states to develop and pilot new systems of assessments that better enable personalized, competency-based learning. States would be able to test their system in a subset of school districts before expanding them statewide. They would be able to use their new system of assessments as the basis for the state-designed accountability system.

On April 13th, a coalition of 23 groups, including our organizations—iNACOL and KnowledgeWorks—sent the following letter to Senators Alexander and Murray, and the members of the HELP Committee. The letter supports the inclusion of the pilot and states key common principles that signatories agree should be included in the final bill.


Online Learning Resources

Learning Registry
The learning registry is a new approach to capturing, connecting and sharing data about learning resources available online with the goal of making it easier for educators and students to access the rich content available in our ever-expanding digital universe.

Today large collections of learning resources sit online, waiting to be accessed. The burden of locating these resources, assessing their quality, connecting them to related resources, and sharing them with others often falls on individual educators.

The Learning Registry makes all of these activities easier by acting as an aggregator of metadata—data about the learning resources available online—including the publisher, location, content area, standards alignment, ratings, reviews, and more.

With the help of publishers and developers who make data about online educational content available to the Learning Registry and use the Learning Registry’s open source platform to create the tools educators need, digital learning resources can now be consumed in a smart, efficient and social way. Still have questions? Try this FAQ.


IT Security — Higher Ed


Security Risks in Higher Ed's New Normal
Aletha Noonan, Ed Tech Focus on Higher Education, April 16, 2015

How can you secure what you can’t control? Devices, wireless and security are integral to the ongoing technology priorities conversation taking shape on higher ed campuses today, along with how they can be leveraged to improve outcomes. In the always-connected, BYOD "new normal," securing your people and institution has never been more difficult.


When it comes to supporting mobile devices, IT leaders remain concerned — rightly so — about security (57 percent) and bandwidth limitations (47 percent), according to CDW•G’s “Wireless Network Practices and IT Purchase Practices” survey, conducted and published by Spiceworks in January 2015.


Game Design


Beyond Programming: The Power of Making Games

Lisa Castaneda, Manrita Sidhu, THE Journal, February 18, 2015

Art and creative expression have an interesting way of weaving in and out of classrooms, offering students the opportunity to explore their own ideas and minds. Video games are no different, and while most of the discussion about their use in classrooms centers on play, we at foundry10 wanted to examine the value of making games. Through easily accessible programs such as Scratch and Gamemaker, students from early elementary up through college are creating games and learning while doing it.

We gathered surveys from 107 game design and development professionals and 300 middle school students, before and after a game development class, about the value of teaching game development in a middle school class. Then we compared the responses of the 7th- and 8th-graders with what the game developers said they felt would be important about making games. We hope this information will help teachers who are constructing game development classes, and show the broader view of the value inherent in game development that professional game makers can provide.


Wage Statistics

Education Alone Won’t Put an End to Equal Pay Days
BryceCovert, The Nation, April 14, 2015
Women with high school educations earn 75 percent of what high school educated men earn, but women with graduate degrees earn 69.1 percent of what men with those degrees earn. 

April 14th was Equal Pay Day, the dismal holiday where women celebrate the fact that, on average, their earnings have caught up to what men made in one year last year, given that when they work full-time, year-round they make just 78 percent of what men make.

The gender wage gap hasn’t really budged in recent years—about a decade, in fact—and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research predicts it won’t actually close for another five decades. The gap is even larger for women of color, and they have to wait until summertime or later to catch up to what white men earned last year. But some think change is coming faster than that….Read more....



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