Welcome to our periodic Worthy of Note!
SREB Educational Technology Cooperative
Worthy of Note: March 17, 2014

Prepared by June Weis
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Virtual Schools

Virtual School Enrollment Increases by Double Digits
David Nagel, THE Journal, March 6, 2014
According to a new report from the National Education Policy Center, which operates out of U Colorado Boulder’s School of Education, there were 338 full-time virtual schools operating as part of a public education system in 30 states in the 2012-2013 academic year. That’s up from 311 the previous year. The latest figure includes 54 new schools identified as being in active operation in the 2012-2013 school year and 27 that fell out owing to closures or lack of enrollment.
The report, Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2014: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence, found that total number of students enrolled at these schools hit about 243,000 in 2012-2013, up 21.7 percent from the previous year, according to the report. That’s a significant percentage increase, though the total student enrollment figure still represents less than half a percent (0.49 percent) of the total student population of the United States public education system.
Report Recommends Curtailing Virtual School Growth Until Quality Issues Can Be Addressed
David Nagel, THE Journal, March 6, 2014
The report, Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2014: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence, issued by the University of Colorado Boulder’s National Education Policy Center, examined the state of online virtual schools — their numbers, their student populations and certain performance measures.
Among the findings:
  • 30 percent of full-time virtual schools did not receive state accountability or performance ratings;
  • Only 36 percent of those schools that did receive ratings had “academically acceptable ratings;”
  • The on-time graduation rate for students at full-time virtual schools (43.8 percent) was a little more than half the national average (76.8 percent).

Online and Blended Learning

How Will Universities Flip, Blend And Go Online?
Tom Vander Ark, Getting Smart, February 26, 2014
Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) was the breakout trend of 2012. Over the last two years, Coursera has emerged as the clear winner serving 6.7 million learners with 621 courses and 108 university partners. The story behind the scenes is how the diverse web of nearly 5,000 institutions of higher learning in the U.S. are responding to cost pressure, calls for higher completion rates and better job preparation, and student demands for relevance.
There are a handful of innovators Powering the Real Revolution in Higher Education — the broader shift to online and blended learning. NovoEd heightens interactive and collaborative learning with peer-to-peer communication, collaborative projects, and an open line to instructors. Echo360 is an active learning platform that helps profs flip, blend, and engage. 2U has helped a dozen universities launch next-gen blended programs. And with much less fanfare, Pearson manages over 125 online higher education programs. Read more….
Blended Learning
Clayton Christensen Institute
What is blended learning? This site provides a comprehensive look at many aspects of blended learning.
Top 10 Rules for Developing Your First Online Course
John Orlando, Faculty Focus, March 3, 2014
Years of helping faculty pass to the dark side of online education have taught me a few simple rules that I brow beat (in a collegial way) into all new online teachers. Check out his 10 rules.

Future of Online Learning

The Future of Online Learning: The Age of Mobile-First Education
Ronnie Zarom, Getting Smart, February 22, 2014
After tremendous growth and public hype surrounding MOOCs as the Holy Grail that would save education, reality has set in. We now know MOOCs won’t solve every problem. Completion rates are low, participants often already have a degree and global access is hampered by hardware shortcomings. But could the difficulties with online learning be partly due to how we have delivered courses? A growing number of data might indicate just that.
According to the Pew Teens and Technology 2013 survey, 37% of all American teens had a smartphone, up from 23% in 2011. Additionally, one in four teens are “cell-mostly” Internet users and, among teen smartphone owners, half are cell-mostly. It’s a safe bet that upcoming reports will show further increased smartphone adoption and, with it, increased Internet usage on those devices.
On a global scale those numbers are even more astounding. Last fall, Indian advisory firm Avendus Capital reported India currently has about 50 percent mobile-only Internet users. China boasts 38 percent and Egypt 70 percent (full report).  Read more….

Everything Digital

New All-Digital Curriculums Hope to Ride High-Tech Push in Schoolrooms
Motoko Rich, New York Times, March 3, 2014
English language curriculums built entirely on a digital platform — replacing written textbooks, worksheets or printed study guides — are about to enter the market from several companies, with promises that they will change the nature of classroom learning across the country.
The Obama administration has pledged to provide high-speed Internet connections to 15,000 schools over the next two years, districts are purchasing tablets and laptops for students, and on Friday, President Obama announced $400 million in corporate commitments from the software companies Adobe and Prezi, which will donate software to teachers. Meanwhile, other companies are rushing in.
Joel Klein, the former chancellor of New York City public schools and the current chief executive of Amplify, the education unit of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, introduced a digital English language arts curriculum for middle school at an education conference recently in Austin, Texas. (Read about Amplify below.)
10 Things You’ll Like About The Amplify Middle Grade ELA Curriculum
Getting Smart Staff, March 3, 2014
Amplify unveiled a comprehensive middle school ELA curriculum at #SXSWedu today–Larry Berger called it “a rigorous attempt to get kids reading & writing at a whole new level.”
There are 10 features you’ll want to experience in a demo:
  1. Sequenced curriculum for in and out of school use;
  2. Teacher controlled assignments and pacing with lots of lesson options;
  3. Multimedia games that reinforce learning;
  4. Smart system tailors the experience to individual students;
  5. Constant performance feedback to student;
  6. Huge library of content and a clean ereader experience;
  7. Built for Common Core State Standards;
  8. Top notch video of classic literature with top notch talent like Chadwick Boseman;
  9. Runs on iPad, Chromebook or Amplify tablet; and
  10. A multiplayer vocabulary game, Lexia, designed to provoke non-compulsory play.
Our favorite thing about the new curriculum is that it was designed to promote 3 times as much reading and writing as is typical in American middle schools–with more than 3 times as much feedback.
Textbook Publishers Push to Provide Full Digital-Learning Experience
Steve Kolowich, Chronicle, March 3, 2014
The student experience is paramount to how people think about college. Many alumni still conjure lecture halls and well-landscaped lawns. But for those who have grown up in the online era, the student experience increasingly resides on a different quad: the glowing 13-inch screens of their laptops.
To the companies selling online learning tools to colleges, that quad is a battleground. Colleges have long enlisted the help of outside companies to build their digital classrooms. Now those companies are jockeying among themselves for greater control of the learning experience.
So far, the battle appears to be at a stalemate between companies that provide digital content for courses and those that provide the platforms on which that content is taught. No company has yet emerged as the Apple of higher education, the one-stop provider of everything. But several are trying.
Read about several companies that are moving in this direction.
Education, Nonprofit, Government & Tech Worlds Collide this Month in Virtual Agreement
Beth Purcell, Getting Smart, February 27, 2014
Technology is not the answer. At least not “the entire answer,” according to President Obama’s February 4 speech on ConnectED, the federal program designed to connect 99 percent of America’s schools to the Internet. Announced just prior to Digital Learning Day, the comment could seem oddly placed. As PBSLearningMedia, the National Writing Project, and the Library of Congress join the digital learning frenzy, it seems that the education, nonprofit, government and technology worlds collide this month in virtual agreement. Harnessing the power of tech for America’s schoolchildren, they contend, could help increase college and career readiness, address the effects of poverty, and improve America’s lagging test scores.
These sentiments have fostered such support that the Center for Education Reform has issued a report to pinpoint which and what sized news outlets most often cover digital learning stories. (Their answer? Small-circulation news outlets in the South and large-circulation news outlets in the Midwest and Northeast.)
Entitled “The Media and The Digital Learning Revolution,” the report also presents advocacy tips for so-called “digiformers.” This portmanteau refers to those committed to technology-aided education — of which there seems to be many.
OpenID Connect Standard Extends Digital Identities Across the Web
Rhea Kelly, THE Journal, February 26, 2014
The OpenID Foundation has launched a new standard for Internet security and privacy. Organizations can now use OpenID Connect to develop secure, flexible and interoperable identity Internet ecosystems, allowing digital identities to be used across websites and applications via any computing or mobile device.
OpenID Connect enables applications to outsource the business of identity verification to specialist identity service operators, called identity providers, while still managing their relationships with users. Internet and mobile companies such as Google, Microsoft,, Ping Identity, Nomura Research Institute, mobile network operators and other companies and organizations have implemented the standard worldwide. It will be built into commercial products and implemented in open source libraries for global deployment.

Mobile Technologies

8 Mobile Competencies IT Will Need by 2016
David Nagel, THE Journal, February 24, 2014
Within the next two years, IT organizations will need to master a slew of mobile-related skills — many of them new or unfamiliar. They'll also need to have on hand the tools to execute and support increasingly important mobile technologies.
In a post today, Gartner Vice President Nick Jones identified several of these skills and tools that apply to organizations across sectors.

Technology Use

Technology Use in the Classroom: A Study
Digedu, February 28, 2014
This month, digedu surveyed over 600 K-12 teachers across the United States. We’re determined to understand how teachers use technology in their classrooms in hopes of identifying best practices and contributing to the community’s continued development. Our team is currently analyzing the results and will be releasing a full report of our findings in late March.
We are excited to share insights from the survey, and in the meantime, we will share some of the most intriguing data points through a series of blog posts. The infographic below illustrates a few highlights from the survey. Be sure to check back in the coming weeks as we dive into the implications of each finding!

Soft Skills

Tech Tools for Assessing the “Soft” Skills
Cathy Swan, Tech & Learning, February 26, 2014
Search for “soft skills” in Google and you’ll find 45,800,000 results. The first screen includes business Web sites, Web sites listing job and interview skills, career developer Web sites, and an article from National Careers Service asking, “What are the ‘soft’ skills employers want?” The U.S. Department of Labor links to a curriculum focused on teaching workforce readiness skills to youth ages 14-21 called “Skills to Pay the Bills: Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success.” The course consists of six modules: communication, enthusiasm and attitude, teamwork, networking, problem-solving and critical thinking, and professionalism. The one link focusing on education is titled “Should schools teach soft skills?” Forty-five million sites think we should.


School CIO: Who’s Afraid of Big Data?
Steve Rubenstein, Tech & Learning, February 26, 2014
You shouldn’t be. Used properly, the numbers can improve education immensely. First, a confession: I hate big data. Read on about what this author shares about the pros and cons of big data.
U.S. Education Department Issues Guidance on Student Data Privacy
Benjamin Herold, Education Week, Digital Education, February 25, 2014
Seeking to help schools and districts better protect students' privacy, the U.S. Department of Education released new guidance Tuesday on the proper use, storage, and security of the massive amounts of data being generated by new, online educational resources.
The guidelines, produced by the department’s privacy technical assistance center, highlight the rapidly evolving, often-murky world of educational technology and student data privacy: “It depends” is the department’s short answer to two major questions related to the laws governing the sharing of sensitive student information with third-party vendors.
Common Education Data Standards
The Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) project is a national collaborative effort to develop voluntary, common data standards for a key set of education data elements to streamline the exchange, comparison, and understanding of data within and across P-20W institutions and sectors.

Federal Education Budget

The Obama Administration’s 2015 K–12 Budget Request
Andy Smarick, EducationNext, March 5, 2014
The Obama administration has just released its 2015 budget proposal. Here are its most notable K-12 edu-features. The author describes seven requests for K-12.
Obama Budget Pitches Race to Top for Equity, New Money for Ed Tech
Alyson Klein, Education Week, Politics, March 4, 2014
Education would be a bright spot in a relatively austere budget year, if the Obama administration gets its way.
The president’s $3.9 trillion fiscal year 2015 budget, released Tuesday — which would largely hit school districts in the 2015-16 school year — includes level funding for key formula programs, such as Title I grants to districts, but makes room for several new competitive initiatives, including a new iteration of the Race to the Top program focused on helping schools close the achievement gap.
Overall, the White House is asking for $68.6 billion for the U.S. Department of Education, or about a $1.3 billion increase over fiscal year 2014. Read more….
The 2015 Budget, Real and Illusory (higher ed)
Michael Stratford, Inside Higher Ed, March 5, 2014
WASHINGTON -- President Obama on Tuesday sent Congress a budget request that would keep most student aid and basic research programs level-funded; the 2015 plan also included several ambitious new higher education proposals. Read about the proposals related to higher education.

Competency-Based Learning

Competency-Based Degrees: Coming Soon to a Campus Near You
Joel Shapiro, Chronicle, February 17, 2014
Has distance education significantly affected the business and teaching models of higher education? Certainly. Is it today’s biggest disrupter of the higher-education industry? Not quite. In fact, the greatest risk to traditional higher education as we know it, may be posed by competency-based education models.
Competency-based programs allow students to gain academic credit by demonstrating academic competence through a combination of assessment and documentation of experience. The model is already used by institutions including Western Governors University, Southern New Hampshire University, Excelsior College, and others, and is a recent addition to the University of Wisconsin system.
Traditional educators often find competency programs alarming—and understandably so. Earning college credit by virtue of life experience runs afoul of classroom experience, which many educators believe to be sacred. As a colleague recently said, “Life is not college. Life is what prepares you for college.”
In fact, traditional educators should be alarmed. If more institutions gravitate toward competency-based models, more and more students will earn degrees from institutions at which they take few courses and perhaps interact minimally with professors. Then what will a college degree mean?

High School MOOCs

MOOCs go to high school
Jaccil Barmer, eCampus News, February 26, 2014
The University of Houston (UH) System will offer two massive open online courses (MOOCs) designed to help high school students prepare for the College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus and Statistics exams in May.
The massive courses, known as “Preparing for the AP Calculus AB Exam” and “Preparing for the AP Statistics Exam,” will be made available through Coursera.

Augmented Reality

How To Start Using Augmented Reality In The Classroom
Beth Holland, Edudemic, February 26, 2014
Augmented Reality (AR) allows teachers and students to extend the physical world with a virtual overlay. Whether you have iPad, Android, or a smartphone, scanning a trigger in the physical world with an AR app allows a new layer of information to appear. This information could be a link to a web site, a video, an audio recording, or even a 3D model.

Podcasts in Curriculum

Encouraging Reflective Learning with Podcasting at the K-12 Level
Dave Guymon, Getting Smart, March 3, 2014
Effective implementation of podcasts into the curriculum happens at two levels, instruction and activity. Cornelia Rüdel has broken podcasting down into four types of podcasts defined by the role of content creation in a recording. He categorizes podcasts by their ability to:
  1. substitute audio recording for a traditional face-to-face lecture;
  2. provide material to enhance students’ experiences with course content;
  3. offer supplemental information not necessarily essential to passing course exams; and
  4. enable students to generate content for the teacher or other students.
However you choose to use them, imperative to effective podcast integration into any classroom is embedding podcasts into a curriculum-based task design. Fortunately, the technology for creating podcasts for and with your students is readily available and often free. Audacity is an open-source online software that allows users to record sound, import clips, and perform a number of edits and digital enhancements to a recording before exporting it as a sound file and uploading it to a podcast hosting site like Podomatic or Podbean. Once uploaded to a hosting site, teachers and students can then connect the RSS feed of the site with iTunes to further enable downloads and the streaming of tracks.

Cloud Computing

Straight Talk about the Clouds
Kathryn F. Gates, Betsy Tippens Reinitz, and Joseph Vaughan, EDUCAUSE Review Online, February 24, 2014
Higher education institutions can choose from a range of cloud computing approaches. As these three senior IT leaders explain, the “right” solution for a given institution depends on many factors such as size, existing investments, the availability of system-level services, and campus culture. By being mindful of these issues and collaborating with campus constituencies, you can choose the approach that best suits your institution's specific needs.

Textbook Alternatives

New alternatives to print textbooks erupt on campuses
Eliza Collins, USA Today College, February 8, 2014
Imagine a world where you didn’t have to wait in line at the bookstore, your textbook didn’t cost $200 and you could pick whether you wanted to read it online, watch interactive videos or open a traditional print product. It isn’t that far off. Universities across the U.S. are exploring alternative textbook models to lower costs and increase access.

Survival Skills

Why It’s Imperative to Teach Students How to Question as the Ultimate Survival Skill
Mind/Shift, March 14, 2014
Are our schools doing a good job of preparing students for a world where questioning is a survival skill? Only the one who does not question is safe from making a mistake.


Browse Open Educational Resources (OER) (6581 resources)
California Learning Resource Network (CLRN)
Education Network Guidelines to Help Schools Make Their Vision a Reality
Tanya Roscorla, Center for Digital Education, March 10, 2014
As more computing devices land on campus, chief technology officers are trying to keep their education networks up to speed so they can handle the increased load.
Until recently, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has focused on providing them with a high-level vision of how to lead their schools through digital changes. But the nonprofit organization decided to create more concrete guidelines that are designed to help chief technology officers through the technical components that make their vision a reality. “We’ve increasingly realized that an awful lot of people are struggling with matching that vision with what they actually do,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN.
At the SXSW conference in March, CoSN released guidelines and a checklist as part of its Smart Education Networks by Design initiative, which receives financial support from Qualcomm Technologies Inc. The guidelines cover hot topics including 1-to-1 computing programs, classroom broadband connectivity and 24/7 connected learning environments.

Just Interesting

The Impact Of Technology On Curiosity
Terry Heick, TeachThought, August 16, 2013
Curiosity is the “complex feeling and cognition that accompanies a desire to learn what is unknown,” according to Min Jeong Kang and fellow researchers in a 2009 study. Neurological research here focused on, among other areas, the difference in neural activity when answers are presented, and when questions are presented for both high-curiosity and low-curiosity questions.
What they found (in addition to dilated pupils when answers to questions with high curiosity levels were revealed) was revealing: the “desired level of knowledge increases sharply with a small increase in knowledge, so that the gap between this desired level and the actual knowledge grows.” (Kang, et. al 2009). And conversely, once one is “sufficiently knowledgeable,” the desire for new information decreases. This suggests that a little learning should, neurologically, cause the desire for more learning.
This idea—the proportional relationship between knowing and wanting to know–is the foundation of what is known as the information-gap theory. Of course, most teachers can tell you that it’s not that simple.
iPad No Longer the Tablet of the Majority
David Nagel, THE Journal, March 4, 2014
According to new research, Apple’s iPad line no longer holds a majority share of the tablet market.
While the iPad is still the single most popular tablet in the world, its dominance dropped to a mere plurality by the end of last year, losing nearly 17 percentage points, according to market research firm Gartner. In 2012, the iPad line accounted for 52.8 percent of all tablets sold worldwide, with total shipments hitting 61.5 million units. In 2013, that market share dropped to 36 percent, with 70.4 million units shipped. What happened?
Uh-oh, this computer virus can spread via Wi-Fi
Michelle Starr, CNET, February 27, 2014
Researchers at England’s University of Liverpool have created Chameleon, a virus that can proliferate via Wi-Fi as efficiently as the common cold infects humans.
Understanding the Propaganda Campaign Against Public Education
Diane Ravitch, Common Dreams, March 12, 2014
A few years ago, when I was blogging at Education Week with Deborah Meier, a reader introduced the term FUD. I had never heard of it. It is a marketing technique used in business and politics to harm your competition. The term and its history can be found on Wikipedia. FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. The reader said that those who were trying to create a market-based system to replace public education were using FUD to undermine public confidence in public education. They were selling the false narrative that our public schools are obsolete and failing.
This insight inspired me to write Reign of Error to show that the “reform” narrative is a fraud. Test scores on NAEP are at their highest point in history for white students, black students, Hispanic students, and Asian students. Graduation rates are the highest in history for these groups. The dropout rate is at an historic low point.
Best Times of Day for Emailing, Cold Calling and Scheduling Meetings 
Ron Levine, SIIA, February 25, 2014
It was funny to read today about a Web app called that picks meeting times without the sending of a massive amount of emails back and forth and back. I just counted 25 emails to schedule a conference call we had here yesterday that four people ended up participating in.
I read about WhenIsGood and its chief technology officer, Keith Harris, in a really, interesting article in The Washington Post last week titled “The best (and worst) times to get things done” by Jena McGregor. Here are some of its findings mingled with her own experiences.
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