Sunday, May 18, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008


Posted: Thursday, 15 May 2008 5:45PM

Airialink Wins Fiber Optic Deal In Eaton County

Lansing-based Arialink Thursday announced a contract to bring its fiber optic network and Internet services to the Eaton Intermediate School District. The value of the deal was not immediately disclosed.

The Eaton Intermediate School District (EISD) Wide Area Network will link county K-12 school districts and the Eaton ISD to provide unprecedented, collaborative opportunities for sharing software, curriculum, classes, data, and technology expertise.

Once constructed, the network will provide a significant increase in bandwidth and high speed Internet access to meet the growing needs of students and educators in the following school districts: Charlotte Public Schools, Eaton Rapids Public Schools, Grand Ledge Public Schools, Maple Valley Public Schools and Potterville Public Schools.

The EISD Wide Area Network will give students access to classes unavailable in their district, such as advanced math and foreign language courses. These classes could be offered with a “live” instructor, who would interact with students in another classroom, or another school, or in a college setting. The network would allow enhanced access to on-demand videos to supplement instruction. Reliable, high-speed data transmission will allow sharing of software and resources not previously available.

As a result of this investment in technology, educators, administrators and students in the EISD will see an increase in opportunities for all schools of their districts to access the technological and academic tools necessary for success in the 21st Century.

By using Arialink’s Statewide Education Peering Network, the EISD will have the opportunity to partner with other regional customers like the Ingham Intermediate School District, Allegan Area Education Services Agency, Muskegon Area ISD, Lansing Community College, and Michigan Virtual University. These partnerships can leverage shared technologies to enhance the lifelong learning goals of all users.

Additionally, by virtue of bringing Arialink’s fiber-optic network to Eaton County, there will be significant positive economic and residential impact to the community. Businesses, health care facilities and libraries will be able to take advantage of Arialink’s network, allowing these institutions to become competitive in today’s technology-driven marketplace.

The presence of Arialink’s network will help facilitate future plans of offering high speed Internet and phone services to the underserved residents of Eaton County.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Friday, May 09, 2008

A Decade of Digital Disruption!

Education Week

Published Online: May 5, 2008
Published in Print: May 7, 2008

Online Education Cast as ‘Disruptive Innovation’

By Andrew Trotter

Technology-based forces of “disruptive innovation” are gathering around public education and will overhaul the way K-12 students learn—with potentially dramatic consequences for established public schools, according to an upcoming book that draws parallels to disruptions in other industries.

Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns predicts that the growth in computer-based delivery of education will accelerate swiftly until, by 2019, half of all high school classes will be taught over the Internet.

Clayton M. Christensen, the book’s lead author and a business professor at Harvard University, is well respected in the business world for his best-sellers The Innovator’s Dilemma, published in 1997, and The Innovator’s Solution, published in 2003.

Those books analyze why leading companies in various industries—computers, electronics, retail, and others—were knocked off by upstarts that were better able to take advantage of innovations based on new technology and changing conditions.

School organizations are similarly vulnerable, Mr. Christensen contends.

“The schools as they are now structured cannot do it,” he said in an interview, referring to adapting successfully to coming computer-based innovations. “Even the best managers in the world, if they were heads of departments in schools and the administrators of schools, could not do it.”

Under Mr. Christensen’s analytical model, the tables typically turn in an industry even when the dominant companies are well aware of a disruptive innovation and try to use it to transform themselves.

But established organizations are trapped in the industry’s architecture, through webs of “interdependencies,” such as the compensation system for sales forces and the expectations of existing customers, who do not want to bear the cost of adopting innovations that initially are inferior to what they were used to getting, he said.

With the advent of new technologies, companies usually resort to “cramming down” the innovations onto their existing systems, an approach that generates only incremental improvement, he says.

Upstart organizations—though they cannot at first compete head to head with the leaders—find markets for innovative products and services among “nonconsuming” groups who are are priced out of the main market or are seen as peripheral by the leaders. The nonconsuming groups embrace the innovations, which gradually improve until they are better than the top products—and sweep to dominance, according to the book.

Cramming Down

In the new book, Mr. Christensen and his co-authors apply a similar analysis to K-12 education. Mr. Christensen wrote the book with Michael B. Horn, the executive director for education at the Innosight Institute, a think tank that promotes Mr. Christensen’s ideas, and Curtis W. Johnson, a writer and former college president and political aide.

Like the leaders in other industries, the education establishment has crammed down technology onto its existing architecture, which is dominated by the “monolithic” processes of textbook creation and adoption, teaching practices and training, and standardized assessment—which, despite some efforts at individualization, by and large treat students the same, the book says.

But new providers are stepping forward to serve students that mainline education does not serve, or serve well, the authors write. Those students, which the book describes as K-12 education’s version of “nonconsumers,” include those lacking access to Advanced Placement courses, needing alternatives to standard classroom instruction, homebound or home-schooled students, those needing to make up course credits to graduate—and even prekindergarten children.

By addressing those groups, providers such as charter schools, companies catering to home schoolers, private tutoring companies, and online-curriculum companies have developed their methods and tapped networks of students, parents, and teachers for ideas.

Those providers will gradually improve their tools to offer instruction that is more student-centered, in part by breaking courses into modules that can be recombined specifically for each student, the authors predict.

Such providers’ approaches, the authors argue, will also become more affordable, and they will start attracting more and more students from regular schools.


A new book predicts that the share of high school instruction that takes place over the Internet will start rising sharply in about four years, until online courses constitute more than 50 percent of all high school course enrollments by around 2019.

Mr. Christensen and his co-authors apply an S-shaped curve, accepted in the business-research literature as a mathematical model of disruptive change in industry, to data from 2000 to 2007 to predict that by 2019, online learning will account for 50 percent of high school course enrollments.

The prediction is based on current projections of the supply of qualified teachers and of the costs of traditional and computer-based learning. “As long as that ratio stays the same, we’ll see that happen,” Mr. Christensen said. “Who knows if it is 2019, 2017, or 2020, but sometime around there, it should hit 50 percent.”

The book does hold out hope that established school organizations can adapt to disruptive innovation.

In other industries, the few established companies that have done so have spun off separate units that adopt the innovations independently—and eventually take over from their parent organizations, according to the book. One example it cites is Dayton Hudson Corp., the venerable department-store chain, which survived the onset of large discount retailers by creating a separate unit, Target Stores Inc. Target has become a major force in discount retailing.

Paul D. Houston, the executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, based in Arlington, Va., is familiar with Mr. Christensen’s theories and research, though he has not read the book, which McGraw-Hill is due to publish next month. “I’m so pleased he is looking at the education space,” Mr. Houston said. “It’s going to be very provocative and probably a little controversial, in that it will force people to get out of the box to look at solutions.”

Mr. Houston cited the example of Target as one route school districts may follow to find the “flexibility, which we all know doesn’t exist” in public schools, to embrace student-centered innovation. “We’ve promoted, for some time, the idea of school superintendents creating their own charter schools, instead of resisting this stuff,” he said.

Some teachers’ union leaders are paying attention, too.

Favorable Reaction

The book is “brilliant,” said Adam Urbanski, the president of the Rochester, N.Y., affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and an AFT vice president. “Most people pose the question of how we can improve the current system,” he said. “[Mr. Christensen] poses the different question of how we can have a different system than what we already have.”

Mr. Christensen and his co-authors plan to talk to educators about their ideas in the coming year, including at national conferences of administrators and teachers. They also will lay out their ideas in the summer issue of the journal Education Next.

Online Opinion

A national survey of 3,200 adults found more support for advanced, college-level courses for high school students and online courses for rural students with limited coursetaking options than for courses targeting dropouts or home-schoolers.

Another vehicle is the Innosight Institute, the nonprofit think tank in Watertown, Mass., that Mr. Horn and Mr. Christensen co-founded in 2007. The institute will help grantmakers target “innovations that will have an impact on the structure and the performance of schools,” Mr. Christensen said.

He underscored that the book does not aim to frighten school leaders, but to urge them to treat the approaching changes as an opportunity rather than a threat.

“If they will set up heavyweight teams and create the new architecture for the curriculum in a new space—so they have a school within a school, or a different school underneath the umbrella of the district—at that level the school can truly transform itself,” he said.

Mr. Christensen suggested that the changes he foresees could have even broader implications.

“Whenever an industry gets disrupted, people always consume more, because it’s more affordable, it’s simpler, easier to access, to customize to what they need,” he said. “What a wonderful thing, that we would consume more education.”

Saturday, May 03, 2008

NSF ITEST Grant / Work at Hand

Fri, May 02, 2008

Summit: Save STEM or watch America fail

At current rates of investment in STEM research and education, America is losing its competitive edge, panelists warn

By Meris Stansbury, Assistant Editor, eSchool News

Panelists say awareness is not enough and that the U.S. needs to take action.

Two years after a report called "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" warned that the United States is falling behind in math and science education, endangering America's competitiveness in the global economy, education leaders, lawmakers, and cabinet members met for a national summit in Washington, D.C., to discuss what progress--if any--has been made in closing the gap. Their verdict: The U.S. needs to make a greater investment in critical math, science, and research programs for these efforts to succeed.

In the two years since the National Academies issued its "Gathering Storm" report, Congress passed a bill called the America COMPETES Act, which outlined measures to improve math and science research and education. The legislation called for expanding science research by doubling the basic research budgets for the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy's Office of Science, and the Department of Defense. It also created programs to hire and train more highly qualified math and science teachers and increase the number of Advanced Placement (AP) classes in underprivileged schools.

But the bill was only an authorization, not an appropriation, and lawmakers failed to fund many of these programs in the 2008 federal budget. (See "Final 2008 budget a mixed bag for schools.")

Though Congress passed many of the measures recommended by the "Gathering Storm" report, "we're [just] now in the process of passing appropriations to support those actions," acknowledged Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology.

"Authorizations are not enough," agreed Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va. "We won't get anywhere without funding."

Private-sector funding from Exxon Mobil, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation has supported the creation of a project called the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI). In its first year, NMSI rolled out grants to launch AP Training and Incentive programs in seven states, as well as replicate a math and science teacher-training program called UTeach at 13 universities. (See "Schools aim to solve huge math problem.") But summit panelists said the federal government needs to step up its support for these kinds of initiatives, too.

Panelists cited many examples of success, such as the largest initial public offering in history and the launch of a new research university with a day-one endowment of $10 billion (equal to what it took MIT 142 years to accumulate).

Trouble is, these accomplishments are happening in China and Saudi Arabia, respectively--not in the United States. In fact, in spite of bipartisan agreement on the need to improve student achievement in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] disciplines, little has been done in the U.S.

In a recent op-ed piece published in advance of the summit, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, had this to say: "We are starting to see the consequences of our neglect in STEM. China has surpassed the U.S. as the world's largest exporter of information-technology products--and the U.S. has become a net importer of those products. We must redouble our efforts to ensure that America is the world's technological leader in the 21st century."

Even so, federal funding has not increased, according to reports from Tapping America's Potential and the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation. Basic research funding at federal agencies has not increased, and some programs have been cut. The research and development tax credit has not been made permanent and has been allowed to expire.

In addition, policy makers have not been able to agree on visa and permanent resident green-card reform for highly educated professionals.

G. Wayne Clough, president of the Georgia Institute of Technology, said nothing has really happened in the last two years to advance the goals of the "Gathering Storm" report. Declared Clough: "Our momentum has not only slowed--it's reversed."

Craig Barrett, chairman of the board at Intel Corp., condemned the shortsightedness of politicians and elected officials. "Unless you're a short-term program during an election [season], you won't get funding," he said. "We're not investing in the future; we're not looking forward, because we have this sense of entitlement."

"Churchill said that you can always count on the Americans to do the right thing after they have tried everything else," said Norman Augustine, CEO emeritus of Lockheed Martin. "Our nation's leaders need to follow through on their bipartisan effort in the America COMPETES Act and fund improvements to math and science education. Otherwise, our nation's greatest export is likely to be our jobs and our standard of living."

Sally Ride, chief executive officer of Sally Ride Science and the nation's first female astronaut, said it takes a long time to build a new foundation. "It reminds me of that Road Runner cartoon where the coyote keeps chasing after the road runner, and he keeps running and running until he realizes he's off the cliff and loses his footing. That's us right now," she explained.

Ride said she believes not enough people, especially parents and students, understand how important it is to take an interest in science. She cited a report from Public Agenda, titled "Important, But Not for Me: Parents and Students in Kansas and Missouri Talk About Math, Science, and Technology Education," which found that even though parents and students say they understand the importance of STEM education, they don't see how it applies to them personally.

Charles Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering and former president of MIT, believes Americans are simply too comfortable and are riding out the momentum gained by the rise of STEM education in the 1950s and 60s.

"The enemy I fear most is complacency," said Vest. "The science and engineering talent, tools, and research required to prosper and be a world leader in this century do not grow on trees. We urgently need to invest in people and knowledge and create well-paying jobs. We must again be the ‘can do' nation--building a strong, competitive economy and meeting the challenges of energy, security, healthcare, and global change."

Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., said he believes the U.S. is falling behind in STEM education because Americans "value the fruits of science, but they don't know where they come from. That's why we're currently under-investing in R&D in every sector. It's a result of the 1950s, where we had a bimodal population. We basically told people: ‘If you're not going to be a scientist, then don't bother studying science.'"

Wolf attributed the lack of appropriations to the state of the country's fiscal health. Because of the nation's $54 trillion debt, and with the dollar decreasing in value every day, America simply doesn't have the funds needed to support STEM programs or provide more for the National Science Foundation and NASA, he said.

"Every science program is under discretionary spending," said Wolf. "This needs to change; but how? Should the U.S. declare bankruptcy?"

For many panelists, boosting the federal investment in STEM-related research and education begins with creating a greater sense of urgency.

"The initial [Gathering Storm] report helped to start and maintain public focus," said Vest, "but now we must establish a sense of urgency, not just awareness."

Tom Luce, CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative, said the summit's goal is to help move the report from the playing field to the goal line.

"We're here to help implement strategies, not just talk about what the report says. It's more than just a report--it's an action plan that needs to be developed," said Luce.

According to Clough, Congress and the general population need to understand the link between this report and the economy. He said Americans need to care about the COMPETES Act and many other calls to action delivered by the report, because without STEM education, America won't be able to compete globally--causing a stagnation of median income and a lower standard of living.

"People at the state level get what's going on. We're just lacking the will at the national level," he said.

Concluded Vest: "Tell your representatives and senators--as well as your favorite presidential candidate--that funding math and science education, investing in basic research and development, and welcoming the best and brightest from around the world is the only way to guarantee that their children and grandchildren will enjoy the continuously rising standard of living that Americans have come to expect.

"America can't afford to wait while the rest of the world surges forward. The Cold War is over. Globalization and modernization are racing ahead, there are billions of new competitors in the economic race with the United States--and we are falling behind."

National Academies
Department of Education
National Math and Science Initiative
Tapping America's Potential
Task Force on the Future of American Innovation
Sally Ride on TechWatch;_hbguid=0f29fd65-c137-45d2-8967-f0ad7e1ee463

Friday, May 02, 2008

Cognitive Educational Competitiveness Differentiator

May 2, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist

The Cognitive Age


If you go into a good library, you will find thousands of books on globalization. Some will laud it. Some will warn about its dangers. But they’ll agree that globalization is the chief process driving our age. Our lives are being transformed by the increasing movement of goods, people and capital across borders.

The globalization paradigm has led, in the political arena, to a certain historical narrative: There were once nation-states like the U.S. and the European powers, whose economies could be secured within borders. But now capital flows freely. Technology has leveled the playing field. Competition is global and fierce.

New dynamos like India and China threaten American dominance thanks to their cheap labor and manipulated currencies. Now, everything is made abroad. American manufacturing is in decline. The rest of the economy is threatened.

Hillary Clinton summarized the narrative this week: “They came for the steel companies and nobody said anything. They came for the auto companies and nobody said anything. They came for the office companies, people who did white-collar service jobs, and no one said anything. And they came for the professional jobs that could be outsourced, and nobody said anything.”

The globalization paradigm has turned out to be very convenient for politicians. It allows them to blame foreigners for economic woes. It allows them to pretend that by rewriting trade deals, they can assuage economic anxiety. It allows them to treat economic and social change as a great mercantilist competition, with various teams competing for global supremacy, and with politicians starring as the commanding generals.

But there’s a problem with the way the globalization paradigm has evolved. It doesn’t really explain most of what is happening in the world.

Globalization is real and important. It’s just not the central force driving economic change. Some Americans have seen their jobs shipped overseas, but global competition has accounted for a small share of job creation and destruction over the past few decades. Capital does indeed flow around the world. But as Pankaj Ghemawat of the Harvard Business School has observed, 90 percent of fixed investment around the world is domestic. Companies open plants overseas, but that’s mainly so their production facilities can be close to local markets.

Nor is the globalization paradigm even accurate when applied to manufacturing. Instead of fleeing to Asia, U.S. manufacturing output is up over recent decades. As Thomas Duesterberg of Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, a research firm, has pointed out, the U.S.’s share of global manufacturing output has actually increased slightly since 1980.

The chief force reshaping manufacturing is technological change (hastened by competition with other companies in Canada, Germany or down the street). Thanks to innovation, manufacturing productivity has doubled over two decades. Employers now require fewer but more highly skilled workers. Technological change affects China just as it does the America. William Overholt of the RAND Corporation has noted that between 1994 and 2004 the Chinese shed 25 million manufacturing jobs, 10 times more than the U.S.

The central process driving this is not globalization. It’s the skills revolution. We’re moving into a more demanding cognitive age. In order to thrive, people are compelled to become better at absorbing, processing and combining information. This is happening in localized and globalized sectors, and it would be happening even if you tore up every free trade deal ever inked.

The globalization paradigm emphasizes the fact that information can now travel 15,000 miles in an instant. But the most important part of information’s journey is the last few inches — the space between a person’s eyes or ears and the various regions of the brain. Does the individual have the capacity to understand the information? Does he or she have the training to exploit it? Are there cultural assumptions that distort the way it is perceived?

The globalization paradigm leads people to see economic development as a form of foreign policy, as a grand competition between nations and civilizations. These abstractions, called “the Chinese” or “the Indians,” are doing this or that. But the cognitive age paradigm emphasizes psychology, culture and pedagogy — the specific processes that foster learning. It emphasizes that different societies are being stressed in similar ways by increased demands on human capital. If you understand that you are living at the beginning of a cognitive age, you’re focusing on the real source of prosperity and understand that your anxiety is not being caused by a foreigner.

It’s not that globalization and the skills revolution are contradictory processes. But which paradigm you embrace determines which facts and remedies you emphasize. Politicians, especially Democratic ones, have fallen in love with the globalization paradigm. It’s time to move beyond it.