Saturday, December 29, 2007


Friends and Colleagues:

Please visit the blog-site Students 2.0 and witness the beginning of something extraordinary......the World of Education as WE knew it will never quite be the same. AND this is a GREAT THING!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Putting DIGITAL LEARNING in the ONE-D STEM Initiative!

From the Trenches

« The Kids Are Alright | Main | Come Eavesdrop on Some Great Conversations! »

It's the Technology, Stupid...

OK, I don't even let my own kids use the word "stupid" around the house (if my 9-year old says that someone used the "s"-word, she means "stupid"), but for those of us who remember the 1992 presidential campaign, the phrase reminds us of the importance of focusing on what really matters.

For the last year or two, I've been in an internal dilemma over the importance of technology versus pedagogy, and I think I've just reached a breaking point. There is just no question in my mind now that we are witnessing the initial phases of a social, cultural, and scientific change that will rival--and likely eclipse--the advent of the printing press. And it is not because of the pedagogy. While this change confirms some core beliefs that many of us have with regard to teaching and learning, and reopens the door to implementing them, the cause of this dramatic change is technological, specifically the read/write Web (or Web 2.0). It is the use of the Web as a contributor as much as a consumer of information.

Last week I was in Denver, attending a KnowledgeWorks Foundation small-group brainstorm "Re-imagining Teaching for the Future." Through a series of exercises intended to construct scenarios about future forces that would affect the roles of teachers, we tried to imagine what teaching and learning will be like in 10 - 15 years. I suggested that the depth of integration of technology into formal education would be a significant factor in teachers' roles, but was told that in this particular kind of scenario building, that technology is almost never considered a critical force, because it can be assumed it will be adopted.

I beg to differ. I'm not sure we can make that assumption. Mike Huffman from Indiana calculated that his state had spent a billion dollars on computer technology over ten years, with the less-that-stunning result that each student had access to a computer for 35 minutes a week. Using a bottom-line approach to computing, with the goal of actual classroom and curricular integration, Mike and his colleague Laura Taylor have been helping to provide low-cost immersive computing in Indiana--but I get the feeling they still fight every day to keep their program. Our inability in our own small worlds to see the larger picture of dramatic change taking place because of the Internet and the read/write Web threatens to keep us on a path of continuing to see computers as an accessory in the classroom. I'm personally not convinced that schools are ready to adopt the computer as the new learning medium. They should, however, and the longer it takes us to recognize this important reality, the more we will wonder why we didn't act sooner.

I'm unsuccessfully trying to remind myself to be patient. Tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of the blog (see It's actually the 10th anniversary of the word "weblog," as there have been forms of communication that were blog-like that preceded that day in 1997 when Jorn Barger coined the word. However, I think we can all agree that the blog has only recently burst upon our collective consciousness, and many of the other Web 2.0 tools can only be categorized as being in their infancy. But for anyone participating in Twitter, or Ning Networks, or any of a hundred other social technologies that create dialog and conversation, there is an amazing sense that we are in the middle of something of huge human significance. Ten years may not be that long, but if we have to go through ten more years of debating the value of computers in education, we're in trouble.

Yesterday I interviewed Lindsea (16), Sean (16), and Kevin (17), three of the youth bloggers who have started Students 2.0 (see David Jakes recent post). Sean was in Scotland, Lindsea in Hawaii, and Kevin in Illinois--all on Skype. I've posted the 25 minute interview on my site (along with a previous one by "Arthus" that generated quite a comment firestorm at, and it's well worth the listen; but here I'm fascinated by the role of technology, in this case, in promoting student voices and their perspective on education.

From Sean: "What's happened over the past few years, and in society, with technology and the web becoming a lot more important, I'd say that the stuff I'm doing at home [rather than at school] is right now a bit more relevant, in terms of the skills I will need later in life.... At the stage at which we are at school, I would say that we are not dumb, we've matured a bit, and I think we should have some form of say in what's happening... "

From Kevin: "It's an interesting model, the way school continues to operate, as opposed to the infinitely more learning that we can do outside of the classroom... I think that technology is a very important part of education today, and because of that the shift from the traditional student-teacher model is creating a whole bunch of new possibilities. The web is not the only method by which that will happen, but it is a very important one as well... At the core of everything else, all the technology usage, it's all about creating learners, not just students who are able to interpret the facts that the teachers just preach to them in the classroom... There are 300 - 400 teachers in my school district, maybe only a a handful, I can probably count on one hand, who actually read blogs, let alone write them." -Kevin, 17 years old, Illinois, USA

(Lindsea had less to say because she had to leave the interview early to get to class. She was on a world-wide Skype interview from her computer at school, cool as a cucumber, with all of the noise of a school campus in the background.)

Kids like Kevin and Lindsea and Sean are flying metaphorical jet planes overhead, while we're largely using computers in schools as the equivalent of earth-bound tricycles. And then we're wondering why the computer hasn't transformed or improved education. As Connie Weber has written about an encounter with another teacher in an amazing series of notes about the evolution of her homeroom class, "I got the feeling she thinks 'computers' are a 'subject' and that there should be a lesson on 'computer use' with a beginning, a middle, and an end, then perhaps a test on topic coverage. Oh dear." (Connie's candid notes about her journey into a new paradigm of teaching that started with a social network for her class are on my must-read list for anyone interested in the future of education and learning.)

For some reason that my wife has never understood, I saved every paper I wrote in high school and college. They are still in a box in my attic. "Why?" my wife keeps asking. In my heart, I think I know why. Because I had something significant to say, and I could never bear to throw them away because I never really felt that what I had to say was heard. (Chalk one up to profound insights while blogging.) Most of them only had one other reader than me: my teacher at the time. When our youth write today, their audience can be so much broader and so much more real. It may not be a huge audience, but even if it's a few others scattered around the country or the globe, their writing is much more about communicating effectively with others than mine was. As content producers as well as consumers, their relationship with information is so much richer than mine ever was at their age. I don't want my children to be attic-box writers. I want them passionately, actively engaged in learning and communicating--like they are more and more in their use of the Web, which takes place largely outside of any formal educational setting.

Do I feel shy about advocating increased use of technology in education because of curricular, administrative, teaching, safety, and financial impediments to adoption? Yes, a little. But when I re-frame the context, and ask if I am willing to devote my passion and energy to a complete rethinking of education in light of the impending read/write renaissance brought about by the Internet, it's an unqualified yes. Bring on the revolution.


The members of Students 2.0 are a stellar example of what could happen when motivated young adults are allowed to articulate their ideas to a broad readership.

Unfortunately many (most?) of their peers are not as motivated as Lindsea, Sean, Kevin and crew. If we can't offer them some guided practice as part of their school experience, all of their voices will be lost.

Learning need to expand to fit the needs of the learners.

Absolutely, Diane. Part of the difficulty for me is seeing how we get to where we want to be from where we are--within existing frameworks and mindsets. I'm just not sure there's a clear path between the two--that the new world will be so radically different than the old that we can't migrate from one to the other seamlessly, as though we're just implementing one more program. It's hard for me to imagine my own kids getting much guided practice in these technologies at school, even if I extend out some years. I feel we need a bold new vision, a clarion call to get a "man on the moon" in education--something that will so galvanize us that we're willing to go through radical change.

This is so refreshing! We are on the verge of something so big I hope we are able to keep the vision. To the unknown.

Great post and great interview, Steve. It's nice to see somebody taking "the kids" (sorry, but I'll continue opposing that label, even though well-intended, as one for the dustbin until I end up in that dustbin myself) seriously.

Diane's point about motivation and the need for guidance is well-taken, but to me points to the need to create more authentic publications spaces, with more authentic audiences for students that, like Students 2.0, require quality to reach that audience.

There are obviously other possibilities for such spaces, besides a student edublog, that might motivate students to "embrace the revolution" in their own education.

Music, film, photography, and writings on a broader range of subjects than education are a case in point.

In my own senior classroom, I've been pursuing an "authentic blogging pedagogy" (no html allowed here, so: that throws out prescribed curriculum altogether, and requires only that my students identify a passion-based path of inquiry and/or production, and pursue that through connective reading-and-writing, and through showcasing their own creative pursuits on their blogs.

After a few frustrating months of watching them flounder, I'm finally seeing signs that give me hope. One student had a "mission moment" in which he identified that his blog would henceforth be the space in which he published and discussed his own musical compositions, with the aim of producing a full CD by the end of the senior year.

Others have similarly chosen photography and design as their missions, and are advancing down their own paths in those directions.

I started Students 2.0 out of frustration with all the excuses we read for not pushing authentic learning with web 2.0 forward in education. Sean's old English teacher in Scotland, "Mr. Winton (," put his finger on my ultimate hope for this enterprise when he wrote,

"This attempt to give students a genuine forum where they can give an end-users view of Education2.0 is, I hope, the thin end of the wedge."

The "thin end of the wedge" indeed. We can, all of us, create more spaces that students want to earn their way into. The less "schooly" and egalitarian, the better - because maybe those unmotivated students Diane mentions are not motivated precisely because the types of publication they are offered online, in the end, still feel as inauthentic as the hallway displays of yore.

Thanks for taking these young people seriously, and not just giving them a pat on the head. I know I've been snarky on a couple occasions in comments on other posts about s2oh, but it's precisely because those posts seemed to both miss the weight of the moment, and to coopt the revolution by taming it into a lower level of status in the edublogging caste system. It's nice to see you and Ryan Bretag (he wrote about s2oh on TL first, as far as I know) avoiding that tone.

It's early days for s2oh, and they have a learning curve ahead of them, but trust me: for engagement and motivation, and care for their work, they get an A+ for their work so far.

Or would, if this had anything at all to do with grades. The amazing thing, of course, is that it doesn't.


Thanks so much for adding your voice. I was very keen to see how you'd react to the interview.

I guess the bottom line for me is that I believe the technology is going to open some doors that pedagogy can't right now. Which I hope is different than saying that pedagogy is not as important as technology, but just more powerful (I'm struck by how many good things are done in education that don't lead to larger change.)

I also think that new pedagogies are going to arise because of the changes in how we communicate, collaborate, and create in the new medium of the read/write web--so maybe the bonus for me is that my belief that technology is going to create some dramatic changes also leads me to believe that we are going to be forced by this moment in histsory to have some really important discussions about learning and education, discussions that an entrenched system tends to resist.


Simply OUTSTANDING! Passionatley frames the issue and should serve as the "clarion call" to educators of every ilk.

The outside of the classroom experiences (Kudo's to the digitally enlightened students among us!) signal the identification of a significant trend with regard to the familiar educational "rigor, RELEVANCE, relationships" factors. In other words students will seek relevance where THEY find it. And if not in the classroom, so be it (see students testamonials)!

This is the seminal driving issue with regards to the current work of the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning initiative.

Every champion of evolved digital education and true 21st Century Digital Learning Environments should become familiar with this emerging body of work.

Additionally, we are developing a small "pilot" study program to research, investigate and create technological pedagogically DESIGNED digital learning environments (sorry for the mouthful) composed of some of the issues you have so artfully articulated, within the context of an NSF ITEST STEM GRANT beginning January 2008. The baseline research element of this granting intention addresses the American Competitiveness initiative and attendant follow-on K-12 STEM IT based solutions.

Your patience is to be admired and your anxiety is shared and understood.

With regards to the "BIG PICTURE" here are three words that have served well in several similar social/cultural, industry technological disruptions (Graphic Arts, Industrial Design, Film & Video, Corporate America IT, etc.), of the past couple of decades. CHEAPER, BETTER, FASTER! I believe in combination they are the catalyst and the "great-leveler" of all playing fields if you will, AND they are on the immediate U.S. educational horizon.

Please stay your impassioned course, you are not alone and are spot-on!



Friday, December 21, 2007


Future School: Reshaping Learning from the Ground Up

Alvin Toffler tells us what's wrong -- and right -- with public education.

published 1/24/2007

Forty years after he and his wife Heidi set the world alight with Future Shock, Alvin Toffler remains a tough assessor of our nation's social and technological prospects. Though he's best known for his work discussing the myriad ramifications of the digital revolution, he also loves to speak about the education system that is shaping the hearts and minds of America's future. We met with him near his office in Los Angeles, where the celebrated septuagenarian remains a clear and radical thinker.

alvin toffler
Credit: Getty Images

You've been writing about our educational system for decades. What's the most pressing need in public education right now?

Shut down the public education system.

That's pretty radical.

I'm roughly quoting [Microsoft chairman] Bill Gates, who said, "We don't need to reform the system; we need to replace the system."

Why not just readjust what we have in place now? Do we really need to start from the ground up?

We should be thinking from the ground up. That's different from changing everything. However, we first have to understand how we got the education system that we now have. Teachers are wonderful, and there are hundreds of thousands of them who are creative and terrific, but they are operating in a system that is completely out of time. It is a system designed to produce industrial workers.

Let's look back at the history of public education in the United States. You have to go back a little over a century. For many years, there was a debate about whether we should even have public education. Some parents wanted kids to go to school and get an education; others said, "We can't afford that. We need them to work. They have to work in the field, because otherwise we starve." There was a big debate. Late in the 1800s, during the Industrial Revolution, business leaders began complaining about all these rural kids who were pouring into the cities and going to work in our factories. Business leaders said that these kids were no good, and that what they needed was an educational system that would produce "industrial discipline."

What is industrial discipline?

Well, first of all, you've got to show up on time. Out in the fields, on the farms, if you go out with your family to pick a crop, and you come ten minutes late, your uncle covers for you and it's no big deal. But if you're on an assembly line and you're late, you mess up the work of 10,000 people down the line. Very expensive. So punctuality suddenly becomes important.

You don't want to be tardy.

Yes. In school, bells ring and you mustn't be tardy. And you march from class to class when the bells ring again. And many people take a yellow bus to school. What is the yellow bus? A preparation for commuting. And you do rote and repetitive work as you would do on an assembly line.

alvin toffler

Alvin Toffler appears on a television monitor as he testifies before a Congressional Economic Committee in June on Capitol Hill. This is the first time that interactive video and teleconferencing technology has been used during congressional hearings.

Credit: Getty Images

How does that system fit into a world where assembly lines have gone away?

It doesn't. The public school system is designed to produce a workforce for an economy that will not be there. And therefore, with all the best intentions in the world, we're stealing the kids' future.

Do I have all the answers for how to replace it? No. But it seems to me that before we can get serious about creating an appropriate education system for the world that's coming and that these kids will have to operate within, we have to ask some really fundamental questions. And some of these questions are scary. For example: Should education be compulsory? And, if so, for who? Why does everybody have to start at age five? Maybe some kids should start at age eight and work fast. Or vice versa. Why is everything massified in the system, rather than individualized in the system? New technologies make possible customization in a way that the old system -- everybody reading the same textbook at the same time -- did not offer.

You're talking about customizing the educational experience.

Exactly. Any form of diversity that we can introduce into the schools is a plus. Today, we have a big controversy about all the charter schools that are springing up. The school system people hate them because they're taking money from them. I say we should radically multiply charter schools, because they begin to provide a degree of diversity in the system that has not been present. Diversify the system.

In our book Revolutionary Wealth, we play a game. We say, imagine that you're a policeman, and you've got a radar gun, and you're measuring the speed of cars going by. Each car represents an American institution. The first one car is going by at 100 miles per hour. It's called business. Businesses have to change at 100 miles per hour because if they don't, they die. Competition just puts them out of the game. So they're traveling very, very fast. Then comes another car. And it's going 10 miles per hour. That's the public education system. Schools are supposed to be preparing kids for the business world of tomorrow, to take jobs, to make our economy functional. The schools are changing, if anything, at 10 miles per hour. So, how do you match an economy that requires 100 miles per hour with an institution like public education? A system that changes, if at all, at 10 miles per hour?

It's a tough juxtaposition. So, what to do? Suppose you were made head of the U.S. Department of Education. What would be the first items on your agenda?

The first thing I'd say: "I want to hear something I haven't heard before." I just hear the same ideas over and over and over again. I meet teachers who are good and well intentioned and smart, but they can't try new things, because there are too many rules. They tell me that "the bureaucratic rules make it impossible for me to do what you're suggesting." So, how do we bust up that? It is easy to develop the world's best technologies compared with how hard it is to bust up a big bureaucracy like the public education system with the enormous numbers of jobs dependent on it and industries that feed it.

Here's a complaint you often hear: We spend a lot of money on education, so why isn't all that money having a better result?

It's because we're doing the same thing over and over again. We're holding 40 or 50 million kids prisoner for x hours a week. And the teacher is given a set of rules as to what you're going to say to the students, how you're going to treat them, what you want the output to be, and let no child be left behind. But there's a very narrow set of outcomes. I think you have to open the system to new ideas.

When I was a student, I went through all the same rote repetitive stuff that kids go through today. And I did lousy in any number of things. The only thing I ever did any good in was English. It's what I love. You need to find out what each student loves. If you want kids to really learn, they've got to love something. For example, kids may love sports. If I were putting together a school, I might create a course, or a group of courses, on sports. But that would include the business of sports, the culture of sports, the history of sports -- and once you get into the history of sports, you then get into history more broadly.

alvin toffler

Scene Setter:

Portrait of the young man as an artist, circa 1970.
Credit: Getty Images

Integrate the curricula.

Yeah -- the culture, the technology, all these things.

Like real life.

Like real life, yes! And, like in real life, there is an enormous, enormous bank of knowledge in the community that we can tap into. So, why shouldn't a kid who's interested in mechanical things or engines or technology meet people from the community who do that kind of stuff, and who are excited about what they are doing and where it's going? But at the rate of change, the actual skills that we teach, or that they learn by themselves, about how to use this gizmo or that gizmo, that's going to be obsolete -- who knows? -- in five years or in five minutes.

So, that's another thing: Much of what we're transmitting is doomed to obsolescence at a far more rapid rate than ever before. And that knowledge becomes what we call obsoledge: obsolete knowledge. We have this enormous bank of obsolete knowledge in our heads, in our books, and in our culture. When change was slower, obsoledge didn't pile up as quickly. Now, because everything is in rapid change, the amount of obsolete knowledge that we have -- and that we teach -- is greater and greater and greater. We're drowning in obsolete information. We make big decisions -- personal decisions -- based on it, and public and political decisions based on it.

Is the idea of a textbook in the classroom obsolete?

I'm a wordsmith. I write books. I love books. So I don't want to be an accomplice to their death. But clearly, they're not enough. The textbooks are the same for every child; every child gets the same textbook. Why should that be? Why shouldn't some kids get a textbook -- and you can do this online a lot more easily than you can in print -- why shouldn't a kid who's interested in one particular thing, whether it's painting or drama, or this or that, get a different version of the textbook than the kid sitting in the next seat, who is interested in engineering?

Let's have a little exercise. Walk me through this school you'd create. What do the classrooms look like? What are the class sizes? What are the hours?

It's open twenty-four hours a day. Different kids arrive at different times. They don't all come at the same time, like an army. They don't just ring the bells at the same time. They're different kids. They have different potentials. Now, in practice, we're not going to be able to get down to the micro level with all of this, I grant you, but in fact, I would be running a twenty-four-hour school, I would have nonteachers working with teachers in that school, I would have the kids coming and going at different times that make sense for them.

The schools of today are essentially custodial: They're taking care of kids in work hours that are essentially nine to five -- when the whole society was assumed to work. Clearly, that's changing in our society. So should the timing. We're individualizing time; we're personalizing time. We're not having everyone arrive at the same time, leave at the same time. Why should kids arrive at the same time and leave at the same time?

And when do kids begin their formalized education?

Maybe some start at two or three, and some start at seven or eight -- I don't know. Every kid is different.

What else?

I think that schools have to be completely integrated into the community, to take advantage of the skills in the community. So, there ought to be business offices in the school, from various kinds of business in the community.

The name of your publication is Edutopia, and utopia is three-quarters of that title. I'm giving a utopian picture, perhaps. I don't know how to solve all those problems and how to make that happen. But what it all boils down to is, get the current system out of your head.

How does the role of the teacher change?

I think (and this is not going to sit very well with the union) that maybe teaching shouldn't be a lifetime career. Maybe it's important for teachers to quit for three or four years and go do something else and come back. They'll come back with better ideas. They'll come back with ideas about how the outside world works, in ways that would not have been available to them if they were in the classroom the whole time. So, let's sit down as a culture, as a society, and say, "Teachers, parents, people outside, how do we completely rethink this? We're going to create a new system from ground zero, and what new ideas have you got?" And collect those new ideas. That would be a very healthy thing for the country to do.

You're advocating for fundamental radical changes. Are you an optimist when it comes to public education?

I just feel it's inevitable that there will have to be change. The only question is whether we're going to do it starting now, or whether we're going to wait for catastrophe.

The following Web sites appeared in this article:


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Keeping our "EYES PEELED" and our "EARS and MINDS OPEN!"

Podcast: MacArthur Foundation "Digital Media and Learning" event Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Monday, December 03, 2007


Variations on a THEME!

Cell Phone Projector Coming Soon

Smaller Becomes Bigger Which Begets Better!

Friday, November 30, 2007


Friday, November 30, 2007

High-tech schools pilot program puts kids in charge

Sunday, November 25th 2007, 4:00 AM
Barnuevo For News

Alyssa Deonarian uses a laptop to participate in a class assignment.

A Giant outline of the human body is projected onto a 72-inch screen inside Middle School 202, next to a jumble of organs and bones that belong inside it.

One by one, eighth-graders in the Queens classroom walk to the special screen. The kids - a mix of new English speakers and general and special-ed students - touch a body part and drag it toward the empty outline.

The traditional skeleton propped up in the classroom looks downright antiquated as it stands next to the interactive teaching tool called a "SMARTboard."

"It's awesome," said 15-year-old Joseph Guerra, who correctly placed the esophagus. Nodding toward his teacher, he added, "You can learn a lot more than if they're just talking."

The Ozone Park middle school is one of 22 across the city participating in a pilot program designed to create and test-drive the 21st century classroom.

About $13.4 million in capital funds, along with federal grants, have been invested into the so-called iTeach-iLearn schools over the past two years.

The pilot program outfits classrooms in the 22 schools with devices including SMARTboards, laptops, wireless Internet access and special lockers to keep all the technology safe when the school is closed.

Teachers receive training so they feel comfortable with the new technology, officials said, and each school has a specialist so technical difficulties don't derail lessons for days on end.

"It's teachers giving students the opportunity to take control of their learning," said Troy Fischer, director of the city's Office of Instructional Technology, which will evaluate the program at the end of the school year. "Students begin to bring more to the classes."

The pilot comes as other school districts across the nation debate the effectiveness of using similar technology in the classroom. Some schools that rushed to equip kids with laptops have since backed off, citing mounting costs and questionable results.

A study released by the federal Department of Education this year also showed that educational computer software made no significant difference in student achievement.

But teachers at MS 202 are sold on the new technology.

In her second-floor classroom, sixth-grade teacher Dana Matorella uses the newest gadgets to teach kids about ancient Egypt.

The students use laptops to research hieroglyphics, filling in their answers on work sheets. Then Matorella gives them a pop quiz - but instead of pencils, they pull out remote controls.

A question about hieroglyphics is projected onto the SMARTboard, and the kids enter their answers using the remotes, similar to how audiences are polled on TV game shows.

Instantly, Matorella can see that all but one child answered correctly - and only she knows who got it wrong. "It's anonymous and they feel free," she said. "They love when I say, 'Get out the remotes.'"

Principal William Moore was an early advocate of technology in the classroom, teaching astronomy courses online when he worked as a professor at the New School in Manhattan.

When he came to MS 202 several years ago, he put WiFi Internet access in the school and bought laptops for every floor. But he never imagined the changes he's seeing now. "We're lightyears ahead of what I ever thought I'd have here," Moore said. "It totally transforms the school."

In Joseph Birgeles' seventh-grade social studies class, students played an interactive game about the old Jamestown colony called "17th Century Survivor."

Afterward, they were asked to justify their decisions on a work sheet.
"They have lunch right now," Moore said, "and they don't want to leave."

Students at MS 202 said they preferred their high-tech classrooms to the ones in their former elementary schools - and particularly like the SMARTboards more than blackboards.

"It's easier to see and learn," said Kimara Davis, 12, who also doesn't miss using chalk. "It doesn't mess up your hands."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: On Two Fronts (U of M-Dearborn and the City of Detroit)

U-M might tap Detroit as a living classroom

November 29, 2007



Instead of studying abroad in England, Taiwan or Chile next year, University of Michigan students might spend a semester living, learning and working in downtown Detroit.

The program, expected to begin in fall 2008, would have students hold internships with community organizations, take classes taught by U-M professors at the school's Detroit Center and participate in community service and events.

Organizers of the program, who believe it would be the first of such a scope in Detroit, say it would immerse students in the life and culture of Detroit while fostering relationships between community organizations and the university.

The program would allow students to experience Detroit with city residents and leaders, not simply read about the city while in classrooms.

"It was conceived and is being created with the idea of being mutually beneficial to the city and the university," faculty adviser Stephen Ward said last month.

Local planners are creating the model for this in-depth type of service, but it draws from similar programs elsewhere in the country. Louisiana State University routinely sends students and faculty to rebuild hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, and the University of California, Los Angeles offers students service learning opportunities and internships in Los Angeles.

But the U-M program would be unique because students would forgo the societal comfort of a college campus and go home blocks, not miles, from where they work.

A budget has not been set, and the plan is working its way through channels to formalize it as a sustainable program, but U-M Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Lester Monts said the program is "a sure thing."

Organizers say they hope the program will open channels between the university and the Detroit community to help further the revitalization of downtown.

The program also has been pitched as a way to promote diversity at U-M after the passage of Proposal 2, the statewide affirmative action ban that bars the use of race and gender in admissions and financial aid decisions by public universities.

Ward said the program is a manifestation of a larger movement in the university and the nation to stop looking at inner cities as laboratories for study and to begin to partner with citizens and organizations for social change.

Alumna Rachael Tanner, 21, of Kalamazoo, a former student in Ward's Urban and Community Studies class, proposed the idea of a Semester in Detroit as a final class project. Fellow students formed a planning committee in January. Professors and administrative staff helped put the program into motion.

"We have a semester in Washington, D.C. Why not have a semester in Detroit?" Tanner asked. "The culture is so rich, but students spend so little time there."

The program would support 20 to 30 students and cost about the same as a semester at the Ann Arbor campus. Students would take 15 to 18 liberal arts credit hours studying subjects including the development of urban areas and grassroots responses to urban challenges.

Nick Tobier, a professor in the School of Art and Design who takes university students into Detroit elementary classes, plans to teach in the program.

Tobier said he thinks of Detroit as among the "most productive cultural ecosystems" and wants to bring more students into that atmosphere.

Students would spend the bulk of their time earning class credits at internships with community organizations. Guided by faculty, these students would be expected to secure the internships themselves. In preparation, a student planning committee is working with the university's Ginsberg Center to contact community groups that might be willing to host internships.

Tim Duperron, interim chief executive officer of Focus: HOPE, said the university's relationship with his organization has always been positive, and he would love to have Semester in Detroit's students intern there.

"They certainly have the right mind-set and the right spirit," he said. "I'm encouraged by this, because it will be done well, not superficially."

Classes would take place at and internships would be coordinated through the university's Detroit Center at Woodward Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard. The center serves as a university base in the city to conduct research and meet with community partners.

Organizers expect to buy a home near Wayne State University, where students in the program would live.

Western Michigan University has programs sending students to study internships in major U.S. cities, and Michigan State University sends students to Washington, D.C., in a program with internships and class time. None has programs of this scope in Detroit.

"That's something we're going to strongly consider in the future," said Karen Reiff, director of experiential learning at MSU.

Some see this as a way to bridge two disparate communities.

"Having a program would make a big statement that the university is committed to investing in the city," said senior Megan Hanner, 21, of Whitehall. "I have no doubt that the program would teach students the appropriate way to be invested in a city they're not from."

If he weren't graduating, senior Tom Szczesny, 20, of Bloomfield Township said he would want to spend a semester in Detroit.

"It makes a lot of sense because we're connected geographically, but there's a big disconnect between the university and Detroit," he said. "If you have something like Semester in Detroit, it brings a new awareness of the city."

Monday, November 26, 2007

21st Century Digital Learning Environments


Raising the Bar: What a difference a decade of "digital discourse" makes.

Computers transform classrooms

Gadgets get students excited to learn

November 26, 2007



The kids grab small voting devices on their desks, then punch in their answer to a question posed on the screen above them: "¿Cual es verde? "

In an instant, teacher Nancy Conn pushes a button and up pops a chart showing the correct answer -- the green square -- among six squares of varying colors.

All of this is happening on a large interactive white board -- a cross between a blackboard, computer screen and projector -- that Conn uses in her Spanish classroom at Hickory Grove Elementary School in Bloomfield Township.

The boards -- which will be in every classroom in the Bloomfield Hills Schools district by the beginning of next year -- are among the ways schools in metro Detroit are using technology to teach and capture the minds of a generation growing up in a digital age.

At Lottie Schmidt Elementary School in New Baltimore, students in Jim Alvaro's fifth-grade class create podcasts of their lessons, broadcast for anyone on the Web to hear. Rob McClelland, a teacher at the Oakland Technical Center campus in Wixom, has created computer games that help solidify students' understanding of key lessons.

And at Fisher Elementary School in the South Redford School District, students are learning Chinese and interacting with pen pals in China via a webcam, computer, projector and software.

"You always learn something new by using technology," said Natalie Joniec, 10, a Fisher fifth-grader.

Technology boosts performance

While some schools are pushing forward with plans to fully integrate technology, others struggle to do so in ways that engage kids and help them learn, said Ledong Li, an assistant professor of education at Oakland University.

And that's a problem, he said.

"If we deliver information like we used to do in the traditional way, kids are bored in the classroom," said Li, who organized a workshop in June on using video games in the classroom. "They don't feel they are engaged."

Li said technology can be intimidating to teachers who aren't familiar with how to use it, or how it can benefit their lessons. And so much is focused today on improving test scores that it's easy to see technology as an extra. Yet, Li said research shows technology can improve student performance.

Still, some teachers "look at the requirements for raising test scores as the kind of signal that they have to do things in a traditional way," Li said.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan has announced proposed changes to teacher preparation programs, and he's making the integration of technology into teaching practices a priority. Last year, Michigan became the first, and still the only, state in the nation that will require students to take an online class or have online experience to graduate high school.

Ric Wiltse, executive director of the Lansing-based Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning, said budget crunches have impacted how schools integrate technology.

But, Wiltse said, "teachers are getting more and more creative about how they use the technology tools students have these days."

That includes Alvaro, whose classroom has a blog called the Skinny as well as the podcasts. The students worked on a project that had them research and write about when their ancestors arrived in the United States.

Games that teach

Today's kids are steps ahead of their teachers, in many cases. They instant message, text message, play video games, blog and use social Web sites like MySpace and YouTube.

"Everything we do is about technology," said Kala Kottman of Commerce Township, a senior at Walled Lake Western High School and the Oakland Technical Center campus in Wixom. "It's a big deal."

Kala, 17, is enrolled in the culinary arts program at the technical center. She was among a group of students in a computer lab playing a game created by McClelland, who provides support to fellow teachers.

There are about 100 culinary tools students must memorize, and while they still use rote memorization tricks, McClelland's game gives them a fun way to test their knowledge. McClelland has produced a similar game for two other technical center programs.

In the game, which is timed, students must quickly match a picture of a tool with its correct name.

McClelland programmed the game using popular phrases familiar to kids. For instance, if they click on the wrong answer, they're likely to hear the "D'oh!" popularized by Homer Simpson. If they get it right, they might hear a "Woo hoo."

Instant feedback

The Bloomfield Hills district is making a significant investment in the Promethean white boards. About $2.1 million has been committed to put them in all of its classrooms.

Conn was among the first to try them, and she said they make a difference in the classroom. The screen is connected to a computer, and it takes just a few clicks for her to call up lessons. The board also is interactive, allowing students to manipulate it.

The voting system allows Conn to constantly assess students, asking them to record correct answers on the hand-held device.

The instantaneous feedback means that instead of waiting until she grades a quiz to see who is struggling and which concepts students aren't getting, Conn finds out "just like that," she said with a sharp snap of her fingers.

It also means she can do some re-teaching on the fly if she sees many students answering a question wrong.

Mitchell Shults and Destiny Lynch, both 8-year-old third-graders, said the boards make classes more fun.

"You can play games on it and learn a lot of stuff," Mitchell said.

The voting, Destiny said, gets kids excited, especially when the whole class records the correct answer.

Technology makes it possible

At 7:45 on a Tuesday morning at Fisher Elementary, Deborah Reichman and her students were sitting around a table in a small conference room learning to speak the Chinese language. Reichman, the school's intervention specialist, doesn't know how -- she's learning with her students.

They go over a worksheet, practicing saying words and numbers in Chinese. When they get to a word they're unfamiliar with, Reichman has a plan.

"We may have to change or alter how we pronounce it when Mr. Nemo gets online," she said.

Nemo Ma is a teacher at the Nanao School in Guangzhou, China, and he is usually online when the kids meet to provide assistance and give them a chance to interact with a native Chinese speaker. Often, he places his mouth close to the lens of his camera and slowly enunciates the words so the students in Redford Township can see how his mouth moves. His image is projected on a large screen in the conference room.

The two schools are partnered through a program they call A Classroom Without Walls. The idea here isn't to create fluent Chinese speakers, Fisher Principal Brian Galdes said.

"Our goal is for the students ... to be global citizens, to interact with students from another culture one-on-one," Galdes said.

About 30 kids are involved in the program, in which they also use an online program to learn the language. And they have pen pals at the school in China. They chat with their e-pals, exchanging stories about their lives. But they also work on projects together.

Without technology, "we wouldn't be able to communicate," said Bradford Thomas, 10, a fifth-grader. "We'd have to write letters. And it'd probably take too long for them to reply."

Contact LORI HIGGINS at 248-351-3694 or

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Ann Arbor firm plans to put live TV online in U.S.

November 25, 2007



For all the countless hours of video available on the Internet, you can't watch many live events on your computer, and what you can watch -- such as congressional debates -- usually isn't worth the trouble.

But an Ann Arbor start-up may have an answer for what could be a billion-dollar problem.

Zattoo, founded in 2005 by University of Michigan computer science professor Sugih Jamin and Swiss software marketer Beat Knecht, has built a growing video service of live video streams in Europe with 1.2 million users. Its free software lets users watch live events such as soccer matches on their computers with far better quality than what has been available before.

Networks "have so many years of practice at producing live TV. It's a multibillion industry, and we're not going to replace it overnight," Jamin said. "There will always be people interested in live TV."

Launched with $350,000 from friends and family, Jamin said Zattoo just closed a $10-million fund-raising round led by venture capital firms in Switzerland, with another $20 million planned for next year. The company has grown to 25 full-time employees, including 20 in its Ann Arbor tech center. It also has an office in Zurich.

Zattoo's software, developed by Jamin and his students at U-M, uses a technique pioneered by Internet file-swappers known as peer-to-peer networks. Instead of relying on one central computer to broadcast data to thousands of users, peer-to-peer systems make each user's computer handle part of the workload, swapping data among themselves.

While developed mostly for pirating software and music, peer-to-peer has emerged as the best method of sending large files and streaming data over the Web. Internet phone service Skype is a peer-to-peer system, and its founders have launched a video service called Joost using the same technology.

Founded in 2005, Zattoo -- which means "crowd" in Japanese -- focuses on streaming live TV channels, a bigger technical challenge than offering recorded videos such as YouTube or Joost.

Using its software, viewers in Europe can choose from a variety of channels in their countries. Zattoo's technology allows it to respond quickly when a user changes a channel, with a lag time of a few seconds, similar to everyday television. The service is free for viewers, who have to watch a short ad when they change a channel.

Jamin said Zattoo's software offers several benefits to media companies. It's a cheaper way to get on the Internet than other systems. Zattoo blocks its video from being recorded, a key concern for media outlets worried about piracy. And by focusing on live video, Zattoo avoids some problems that competitors face, such as ensuring enough users are online to share data.

Though the company is based in Ann Arbor, Zattoo is available only in Europe today. Jamin said that is due to the ease of reaching deals with TV channels for transmitting their video there vs. the hurdles for doing so in the United States. But the service already has carried big events, such as the 2006 FIFA World Cup soccer championships, and has deals with foreign units of U.S. broadcasters. The service hopes to expand to Asia and the United States in 2008.

"The vision is that everybody will watch live TV on the PC someday," he said.

Contact JUSTIN HYDE at 202-906-8204 or

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Getting DIGITAL!

Bloomfield Hills schools add more classroom tech

Posted on 11/19/2007 2:22:38 PM

The Bloomfield Hills schools Monday announced that its board had approved a $2.1 million technology investment plan.

By Jan. 1, all 350 district classrooms will be outfitted with interactive whiteboards, projectors, document cameras, sound amplification and playback equipment.

One powerful component is Activotes, which are wireless computer mouse-like student response devices that allow teachers to immediately adapt instruction.

High school students and faculty will begin using the new technology when they return from the December holiday break. Elementary and middle school students are already benefiting from the boards, since classrooms were similarly equipped over the summer and fall.

Bloomfield Hills Schools will be the first district in Michigan to so-outfit all classrooms K-12 with the equipment, manufactured by Promethean.

“Teachers tell us that the impact of this technology is as dramatic as the introduction of personal computers into the classroom,” said Steven Gaynor, BHS superintendent. “Students in our elementary and middle schools who are already using this technology are highly engaged mentally, physically and emotionally. Our teachers are as excited as the kids, and are buzzing about the likely boost to student learning.”

About $500,000 of interactive equipment will be installed at Andover, Lahser and Model high schools, as well as Bowers Academy, the Bowers Farm classrooms and the Johnson Nature Center. The equipment at Andover and Lahser will be portable, so that it could be moved and reinstalled in the future if the aging high school buildings are renovated.

Bloomfield Hills Schools has provided professional development to teachers to aid their understanding and use of the systems. As with traditional lesson planning, teachers develop instruction in advance to best incorporate the technology into student learning.

Cindi Hopkins, director of technology, said that the whiteboards will make common classroom items like wall maps and televisions obsolete.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Maximizing the Impact: "The Pivitol Role of Technology in a 21st Century Educational System."

In a new report, Maximizing the Impact: "The Pivotal Role of Technology in a 21st Century Education System", the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills urged renewed emphasis on technology in education.

The report urges federal, state and local policymakers and other stakeholders to take action on three fronts:

1. Use technology comprehensively to develop proficiency in 21st century skills. Knowledge of core content is necessary, but no longer sufficient, for success in a competitive world. Even if all students mastered core academic subjects, they still would be woefully underprepared to succeed in postsecondary institutions and workplaces, which increasingly value people who can use their knowledge to communicate, collaborate, analyze, create, innovate, and solve problems. Used comprehensively, technology helps students develop 21st century skills.
2. Use technology comprehensively to support innovative teaching and learning. To keep pace with a changing world, schools need to offer more rigorous, relevant and engaging opportunities for students to learn—and to apply their knowledge and skills in meaningful ways. Used comprehensively, technology supports new, research-based approaches and promising practices in teaching and learning.
3. Use technology comprehensively to create robust education support systems. To be effective in schools and classrooms, teachers and administrators need training, tools and proficiency in 21st century skills themselves. Used comprehensively, technology transforms standards and assessments, curriculum and instruction, professional development, learning environments, and administration.

The report supports the Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ framework for 21st century learning, which calls for mastery of core subjects and 21st century skills. The report also highlights effective practices in states, districts and schools that are using technology to achieve results. And it provides guiding questions and action principles for policymakers and other stakeholders who are committed to maximizing the impact of technology in education.

Together, SETDA, ISTE and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills represent dozens of leading U.S. companies and organizations, six leadership states, education technology directors in all 50 states, 85,000 education technology professionals and 3.2 million educators throughout the country.

Click here to view the full report, Maximizing the Impact.


National Study to Examine Best Ways to Prepare Teachers to Use Technology

The Center for Evaluation and Education Policy in the Indiana University School of Education will partner with a Washington, D.C.-area company for a project examining how current and emerging technologies are being used in classrooms and how to prepare new teachers to best use these tools.

The "Leveraging Education Technology to Keep America Competitive" study has just begun with a $3.1 million contract through the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology.

"To our knowledge the federal government and the U.S. Department of Education have never really funded a comprehensive study of how cutting-edge technologies are being used in pre-service education," said Jonathan Plucker, director of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP) in the IU School of Education, and deputy project manager of the study.

Plucker said technological advances have made this a vastly different society. "But a common criticism is that that's not really changing the way that we teach," he said. "It's not changing the way we deliver education. It's not changing the way that students learn. This study gives us the resources to go out and do a very comprehensive and careful study to figure out if those things are happening."

Over a technical plan that breaks down into seven "task" areas, the project will produce an overall assessment of technology use in the classroom by April 2009. While that final work will help direct federal policy towards technology in education, a series of white papers issued throughout the length of the project will give immediate insight into the issues the work is tackling.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

TEDTalks: Nicholas Negroponte (2006_

"Urgency of the Digital Emergency"

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Do schools today kill creativity? (Ken Robinson, TEDTalks)

Note to self: The contextual implicaton is that CREATIVITY ever existed in the Silo's of Irrelevance in the first place. NOT!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dangerous DIGITAL Consequence?

The New York Times
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October 26, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist

The Outsourced Brain

The gurus seek bliss amidst mountaintop solitude and serenity in the meditative trance, but I, grasshopper, have achieved the oneness with the universe that is known as pure externalization.

I have melded my mind with the heavens, communed with the universal consciousness, and experienced the inner calm that externalization brings, and it all started because I bought a car with a G.P.S.

Like many men, I quickly established a romantic attachment to my G.P.S. I found comfort in her tranquil and slightly Anglophilic voice. I felt warm and safe following her thin blue line. More than once I experienced her mercy, for each of my transgressions would be greeted by nothing worse than a gentle, “Make a U-turn if possible.”

After a few weeks, it occurred to me that I could no longer get anywhere without her. Any trip slightly out of the ordinary had me typing the address into her system and then blissfully following her satellite-fed commands. I found that I was quickly shedding all vestiges of geographic knowledge.

It was unnerving at first, but then a relief. Since the dawn of humanity, people have had to worry about how to get from here to there. Precious brainpower has been used storing directions, and memorizing turns. I myself have been trapped at dinner parties at which conversation was devoted exclusively to the topic of commuter routes.

My G.P.S. goddess liberated me from this drudgery. She enabled me to externalize geographic information from my own brain to a satellite brain, and you know how it felt? It felt like nirvana.

Through that experience I discovered the Sacred Order of the External Mind. I realized I could outsource those mental tasks I didn’t want to perform. Life is a math problem, and I had a calculator.

Until that moment, I had thought that the magic of the information age was that it allowed us to know more, but then I realized the magic of the information age is that it allows us to know less. It provides us with external cognitive servants — silicon memory systems, collaborative online filters, consumer preference algorithms and networked knowledge. We can burden these servants and liberate ourselves.

Musical taste? I have externalized it. Now I just log on to iTunes and it tells me what I like.

I click on its recommendations, sample 30 seconds of each song, and download the ones that appeal. I look on my iPod playlist and realize I’ve never heard of most of the artists I listen to. I was once one of those people with developed opinions about the Ramones, but now I’ve shed all that knowledge and blindly submit to a mishmash of anonymous groups like the Reindeer Section — a disturbing number of which seem to have had their music featured on the soundtrack of “The O.C.”

Memory? I’ve externalized it. I am one of those baby boomers who are making this the “It’s on the Tip of My Tongue Decade.” But now I no longer need to have a memory, for I have Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia. Now if I need to know some fact about the world, I tap a few keys and reap the blessings of the external mind.

Personal information? I’ve externalized it. I’m no longer clear on where I end and my BlackBerry begins. When I want to look up my passwords or contact my friends I just hit a name on my directory. I read in a piece by Clive Thompson in Wired that a third of the people under 30 can’t remember their own phone number. Their smartphones are smart, so they don’t need to be. Today’s young people are forgoing memory before they even have a chance to lose it.

Now, you may wonder if in the process of outsourcing my thinking I am losing my individuality. Not so. My preferences are more narrow and individualistic than ever. It’s merely my autonomy that I’m losing.

I have relinquished control over my decisions to the universal mind. I have fused with the knowledge of the cybersphere, and entered the bliss of a higher metaphysic. As John Steinbeck nearly wrote, a fella ain’t got a mind of his own, just a little piece of the big mind — one mind that belongs to everybody. Then it don’t matter, Ma. I’ll be everywhere, around in the dark. Wherever there is a network, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a TiVo machine making a sitcom recommendation based on past preferences, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a Times reader selecting articles based on the most e-mailed list, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way Amazon links purchasing Dostoyevsky to purchasing garden furniture. And when memes are spreading, and humiliation videos are shared on Facebook — I’ll be there, too.

I am one with the external mind. Om.

Education Today and Tomorrow "A DIGITAL CONUNDRUM"

A Vision of Students Today

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Maxed Out in Chicago!

TechTour Day Two: WiMax World touts the future of long-distance broadband

Posted on 9/26/2007 4:52:50 PM

Thousands of believers in the future of WiMax gathered at Chicago's McCormick Place Wednesday morning for the official opening of the WiMax World 2007 conference.

Conference founder Elliott Weinmann, president of Trendsmedia, the events division of Yankee Group Research, conference sponsors, said WiMax World is the fastest growing telecom show in the world. He joked that the first WiMax World four years ago attracted "about seven people," but Tuesday morning the legendary Arie Crown Theatre in McCormick Place was packed.

Berge Ayvazian, chief strategy officer at Yankee Group, and Phil Marshall, vice president of enabling technologies at Yankee Group, presented a "state of the WiMax" address.

The two men said there are 275 WiMax trials and deployments in 65 countries, of which 75 are actual commercial deployment.

There are huge new commercial WiMax services going online soon, however, from Clearwire and Sprint Nextel, both of which will lead to true commercialization of the market. Ayvazian called that a "huge breakthrough."

WiMax will also probably be offered under the upcoming auction of spectrum in the 700 megahertz band now used by VHF analog TV, although many current trials are in the 3.5 gigahertz band.

WiMax will probably emerge as a two-market model, they said, with one part of the market concentrating on home and business broadband, and another portion of the market concentrated on mobile computing, taking over business that's now provided largely by WiFi hot spots and cell phone air cards.

They also said the market will be comprised of three kinds of businesses: upstarts, which they call "rabbits;" regional pioneers, creating WiMax communities; and "dominant defenders," telecom companies who will use the technology to bring broadband to the masses.

One thing for sure -- there's market demand. A Yankee survey showed that more than 40 percent of North American consumers want mobile internet, but less than 10 percent have it.

Yankee Group predicts WiMax subscribers in North America will grow from one million in 2008 to eight million in 2011.

WiMax developers must also continue to foster companion markets for their service -- the way Google married search and advertising, and the way eBay married online buying with brick-and-mortar buying.

WiMax is also likely to become part of a wide diversity of devices, from cell phones to PDAs to PCs.

Muni Wi-Fi, WiMax

Two afternoon panels took up the issue of municipal wireless projects, in which WiMax will play an increasing part, whether for basic service or backhaul of large groups of data streams.

Panelists said incumbent telecom carrier opposition to public-private wireless partnerships has largely evaporated, and some are joining partnerships.

Several major revenue sources for such systems exist -- subscriptions, value-added services, and advertising.

Grand Rapids' public-private wireless system was held out as a national model.

Sally J. Wesorick, wireless project manager for Grand Rapids, described her city's lengthy process toward a citywide wireless system, which started with eight Wi-Fi demonstration hot spots that generated positive buzz.

The city's goals for the project were public safety, economic development, digital inclusion, improved city services, service for visitors and residents, the ability to attract and retain young professionals -- and to design the system so that there was no burden on taxpayers.

The city plans to use its WiMax network for field reporting, database access, e-mail connectivity, video surveillance, digital photos and work order management.

The city's 2006 request for proposals allowed vendors to build a system with either Wi-Fi or WiMax technology. The city chose WiMax based on site visits to other systems, including a driving test in Greenville, S.C.

The company last December awarded the contract to Clearwire LLC, the first partnership of this type between Clearwire and a municipality. The contract is also believed to be the first large scale municipal mobile WiMax deployment, the first truly cost-neutral arrangement and the first WiMax-Wi-Fi hybrid network.

Clearwire will use city assets to build the system, whose rates will be market-driven, but the deal requires Clearwire to offer cheap, $9.95-a-month accounts to the poorest 5 percent of households in the 45-square-mile city.

The system will have Wi-Fi hotspots for the transition period between now and the time WiMax chipsets are widely available in computers and other devices.

There's not yet a firm date for the network's startup.

Clearwire has 300,000 subscribers around the country for its wireless Internet services.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A little "3-Card Monte' Anyone?"

The New York Times
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October 9, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist

High-Stakes Flimflam

It’s time to rein in the test zealots who have gotten such a stranglehold on the public schools in the U.S.

Politicians and others have promoted high-stakes testing as a panacea that would bring accountability to teaching and substantially boost the classroom performance of students.

“Measuring,” said President Bush, in a discussion of his No Child Left Behind law, “is the gateway to success.”

Not only has high-stakes testing largely failed to magically swing open the gates to successful learning, it is questionable in many cases whether the tests themselves are anything more than a shell game.

Daniel Koretz, a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, told me in a recent interview that it’s important to ask “whether you can trust improvements in test scores when you are holding people accountable for the tests.”

The short answer, he said, is no.

If teachers, administrators, politicians and others have a stake in raising the test scores of students — as opposed to improving student learning, which is not the same thing — there are all kinds of incentives to raise those scores by any means necessary.

“We’ve now had four or five different waves of educational reform,” said Dr. Koretz, “that were based on the idea that if we can just get a good test in place and beat people up to raise scores, kids will learn more. That’s really what No Child Left Behind is.”

The problem is that you can raise scores the hard way by teaching more effectively and getting the students to work harder, or you can take shortcuts and start figuring out ways, as Dr. Koretz put it, to “game” the system.

Guess what’s been happening?

“We’ve had high-stakes testing, really, since the 1970s in some states,” said Dr. Koretz. “We’ve had maybe six good studies that ask: ‘If the scores go up, can we believe them? Or are people taking shortcuts?’ And all of those studies found really substantial inflation of test scores.

“In some cases where there were huge increases in test scores, the kids didn’t actually learn more at all. If you gave them another test, you saw no improvement.”

There is not enough data available to determine how widespread this problem is. “We know it doesn’t always happen,” said Dr. Koretz. “But we know it often does.”

He said his big concern is where this might be happening. “There are a lot of us in the field,” he said, “who think that if we ever really looked under the covers, what we’d find is that the shortcuts are particularly prevalent in lower-achieving schools, just because the pressure is greater, the community supports are less and the kids have more difficulties. But we don’t know.”

One aspect of the No Child Left Behind law that doesn’t get enough attention is that while it requires states to make progress toward student proficiency in reading and math, it leaves it up to the states themselves to define “proficiency” and to create the tests that determine what constitutes progress.

That’s absurd. With no guiding standard, the states’ tests are measurements without meaning.

A study released last week by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Northwest Evaluation Association found that “improvements in passing rates on state tests can largely be explained by declines in the difficulty of those tests.”

The people in charge of most school districts would rather jump from the roof of a tall building than allow an unfettered study of their test practices. But that kind of analysis is exactly what’s needed if we’re to get any real sense of how well students are doing.

Five years ago, President Bush and many others who had little understanding of the best ways to educate children were crowing about the prospects of No Child Left Behind. They were warned then about the dangers of relying too much on test scores.

But those warnings didn’t matter in an era in which reality was left behind.

“No longer is it acceptable to hide poor performance,” said Mr. Bush, as if those who were genuinely concerned about the flaws in his approach were in favor of poor performance.

During my interview with Dr. Koretz, he noted that by not rigorously analyzing the phenomenon of high-stakes testing, “we’re creating an illusion of success that is really nice for everybody in the system except the kids.”

That was a few days before the release of the Fordham Institute Study, which used language strikingly similar to Dr. Koretz’s. The study asserted that the tests used by states to measure student progress under No Child Left Behind were creating “a false impression of success.”

The study was titled, “The Proficiency Illusion.”

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Agenda for Change / Update!

Agencies seize opportunity to pitch new plans

For the first time in 10 years, United Way is opening up the funding process and encouraging area agencies to consider ways to better partner with the organization to make a stronger long-term impact on lives across the tri-county area.

The newly established process for 2008-2011 agency applications will allow unaffiliated organizations the opportunity to become United Way partners. This is part of United Way's overall effort to direct community resources in areas of the greatest need.

The new multi-year funding process will focus on programs, services, strategies and collaborations that will address short and long-term goals in three specific areas - educational preparedness, financial stability and basic needs, as outlined in the organization's Agenda for Change.

Current member agencies and those looking to form United Way partnerships based on programs that align with one or more of the priority areas were invited to complete a letter of intent in September. The review of those LOIs will conclude Oct. 5. Applicants will be notified during the week of Oct. 8 if their submissions made it to the next phase, during which they are asked to respond to a request for proposal.

Those current partners not selected for the RFP phase will be directed to the transitional funding process.

While United Way will continue to significantly invest in a wide array of agency programs and services, funding will primarily be focused on achieving Agenda outcomes. The funding system further supports the Agenda for Change, which serves as the United Way blueprint for creating sustained community change that measurably improves people's lives.

"The decision to realign our funding process was driven by our region's growing socioeconomic and human service needs," said Michael J. Brennan, President and CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan. "We know that today's issues are far too complex for any individual, group, or institution to tackle alone. We must work together and bring new groups into the fold. It is only through community building and regional collaboration that we will effect lasting change."

For more information about the LOI/Agenda for Change process (including guidelines, technical assistance sessions, and application deadlines), visit