You mean the teacher still matters?

Four great articles have come to light lately that point to research being done and what many of us in the Ed Tech community have been saying for a long time might just be on the horizon. That is that this technology stuff can improve education. So let’s start at Mashable one of my favorite Web 2.0 blogs to read. Back in August they posted a fantastic article titled What is the Future of Teaching? Until recently, online learning has mainly been of the expository sort, essentially a traditional lecture format adapted for the web. But newer, social and multimedia technologies are allowing online tools to evolve to offer more active and interactive lessons. No longer is online learning just reading a module and answering questions — it can now include synchronous or asynchronous discussions and peer-to-peer learning exercises. As a result, online learning is becoming a more useful tool as both a replacement for and enhancement to traditional face-to-face learning. Ah…..yes….we’re starting to get the hang of this online learning stuff. We’re starting to understand that you can’t take the old model and apply it to a new medium….you need a whole new model of learning. In the Mashable article they point to research done by the US Department of Education (PDF) and link to this New York Times Post which talks about the findings of the study. A recent 93-page report on online education, conducted by SRI International for the Department of Education, has a starchy academic title, but a most intriguing conclusion: “On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.” and Over the 12-year span, the report found 99 studies in which there were quantitative comparisons of online and classroom performance for the same courses. The analysis for the Department of Education found that, on average, students doing some or all of the course online would rank in the 59th percentile in tested performance, compared with the average classroom student scoring in the 50th percentile. That is a modest but statistically meaningful difference. Yep…we might just be getting the hang of this online teaching thing. But wait! There’s even more news about learning with technology that broke last week in a BBC article titled “Phone texting ‘helps pupils to spell’ A study of eight- to 12-year-olds found that rather than damaging reading and writing, “text speak” is associated with strong...

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The beginning of the end cont…

Last week I wrote about the beginning of end for schools with the creation and launch of the University of the People that will accept its first class later this year. A University degree for free…or for very little money comparatively. Using free content on the web and a notion that learners can teach each other the university could be the beginning of the end. Maybe not this university, but this is a concept that I think we’ll see others try and build upon. It’s the idea that is interesting to me and that gets me thinking that the end is just a bit closer. I feel the momentum of change coming. With the recent news of India trying to create a $10 laptop that would bring the Internet to a whole new group of people. Again…..it’s the idea that this could even happen. Even if they make a laptop for $50 what have they done? Who have they given access to? And what will be created in its wake? And then there is the cell phone: Ten years ago, there was a mobile phone subscription for 5 percent of the planet. Today there are 3.95 billion mobile phone subscriptions (lets call it an even 4 billion, we’ll be at 4 billion in January). Even at 3.95 billion today, that means there is a mobile phone subscription for 59% of the population on the planet. You might want to read that stat again. Almost 60% of the worlds population has a cell phone. I wonder what percentage of the world has access to paper and pencil? That would be an interesting comparison. Worried yet? Me neither…just because you have the tools, it doesn’t mean you know how to learn with them. Good thing we dodged that bullet and bought ourselves some time! Oh…and then there is this story from David Warlick: One of the best stories I heard was told by a school librarian, Kathy Gallagher.  Her daughter is a senior in high school and is currently shopping for colleges.  Kathy said that all of the schools her daughter is considering have their own Facebook groups — except for one, a fairly small liberal arts school.  …So her daughter set up the the group for the school.  She said, “In just a couple of days, the group grew to over 300.” This was very impressive — to all of...

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