Do we really know that adding technology to learning works?

Am I smart yet?

Is it the tool or the technique?

At the Education Rethink blog, John Spencer makes the argument that tech integration in K-12 has been slow because the stakes are too high – teachers do not feel comfortable experimenting with new methods because of pressure to succeed with their students.  I get that and I think he is right to a certain measure.  We do need a more professional environment where teachers are trusted to develop new and better ideas and approaches.  Other reasons are also mentioned, such as the need for PD, the lack of time to learn and a few other legitimate holdups.  I like what he has to say.

But it got me thinking about my own classes and about the teachers I talk to daily.  I responded with what is below and I wanted to post it here so you can pick on me rather than on John’s excellent blog.  Here is what I said over there: Continue reading


This is a must-read for anyone talking about education in higher education.

User Generated Education

The Flipped Classroom, as most know, has become quite the buzz in education.  Its use in higher education has been given a lot of press recently.  The purpose of this post is to:

  1. Provide background for this model of learning with a focus on its use in higher education.
  2. Identify some problems with its use and implementation that if not addressed, could become just a fading fad.
  3. Propose a model for implementation based on an experiential cycle of learning model.

Background About the Flipped Classroom

This first section provides information from various articles that describe the flipped classroom, and how it is being discussed and used in educational settings.

In its simplest terms, the flipped classroom is about viewing and/or listening to lectures during one’s own time which frees up face-to-face class time for experiential exercises, group discussion, and question and answer sessions.

It’s called “the flipped classroom.” While there…

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Comparing the Senate and House versions of the Payroll Tax Bill

[Added in edit] On Friday, December 23, one day later, this all came to an end.

{Begin Original] In the last few weeks, the House wrote a bill that will extend the Payroll Tax break through 2012. It was approved last Tuesday, December 13.  The major points are provided below (via The Associated Press.)  The bill and the details are short.

As dictated by our laws, this bill was sent to the Senate for approval.  The Senate made very minor changes – you can read what they are in the list below. In summary, the Senate bill extends unemployment only for two months rather than through 2012.  It is changed to be a temporary fix, rather than making the change for the full year.  The other compromise was how the bill is paid for – the Senate version saves us money by passing the cost of the payroll tax reduction by charging a fraction of a percent more for mortgages – the House bill cost much more ($180 billion vs $33 billion) and generated what money it did through Federal pay freezes.  There are NO OTHER DIFFERENCES between the House and Senate bills.  They both accomplish the purpose of the bill – to extend the payroll tax break.

The Senate approved the amended, cheaper, temporary bill by a wide, bipartisan margin, 89-10.  Most Republican Senators voted in favor of the bill.  Because the bill was reworked to facilitate compromise, the House has to vote again for it to be sent to the President to become law.  This is typical procedure – bills are frequently modified in minor ways and it used to be routine that the House would vote again with a count identical to the original.

Not with our current lawmakers.  Instead, the House sent the bill to conference – which it can do to try and create compromise wording that allows both chambers to pass the bill – but this is usually saved for when significant changes are made when a bill moves from one group to the other.  In this case, there is no significant difference so it’s unclear what should happen in conference. Continue reading

This man knows how to pick a fight.

Keith Olbermann Takes On The 12th Richest Man In The World

If you watch this, you will probably learn something but with that, you will also see why Keith Olbermann is often held up for ridicule.  That is the way people are treated when they won’t give in.  If a person is willing to stand up to power, whether right or wrong, that person is attacked in order to discredit the claims made.  It’s an effective strategy because many who tilt at windmills are outside the mainstream for good reason – they are irrational – and it’s damaging to conjure up those reminders when tearing down an opponent.  But Olbermann has bone fide.  He’s a smart guy with a record to prove it.  He’s an excellent orator.  He might not be someone you agree with but he’s worth a listen.  You can decide for yourself but next time someone judges him or someone else that you know who has a record of success in any field, investigate before you accept the claim.

Lecture Capture on the Cheap – Part 2.

Another successful lecture experience

This is the second part of my post on lecture capture.  You can find part 1 in the previous blog entry.

After a week in class, my lecture capture bugs have been worked out.  I wanted to give it some time because things rarely go smoothly and they didn’t here, either.  I discovered some elements were not in place and I’ll share what I’ve learned.

For me, the biggest factor was finding a good microphone.  Screen capture is not an issue, there is a killer app for that.  Camtasia Studio is a software package that has been around a few years – it does the screen capture well, and will sync a voice over that.  The software is sold by Techsmith and they are a company committed to selling products in the education space.  They have a collection of how-to helps and videos.  Even more impressive, if you shoot them an email, you get a personal response right back, often complete with personal praise for the way you are using their product.  Techsmith is a great resource and there is no software I know that competes with Camtasia. Continue reading

Lecture Capture on the Cheap – Part 1.

Are we asleep yet?

I keep seeing those stats on the low viewer numbers for the lectures put online by UC – Berkeley and MIT, the stats that show us that people will prefer to spend buckets of money for tuition even when they can get the same for free by watching the lectures on Youtube or downloading to their iPhone.  Nobody is watching those videos.

That may be right about the general public but I’ll wager heavily the students in the classes are watching.

I started making problem solving videos for my chemistry classes 8 years ago.  I purchased the first version of the Sony Vaio because they (supposedly) offered breakthrough technology that made video creation a snap.

Ha!  Creation was cumbersome and slow but I found that when I got something up online, numbers greater than 85% accessed the videos for help.  My school (University of Idaho) has always offered great internet access – I know, Idaho? It’s in the sticks.  But check out the facts, Yahoo put us in the top five for educational access when they started measuring these things in the dark ages. Even though access was slow relative to today, students put in the time to download these videos and use them.  I learned their value as instructional tools back then and I am even more confident they are useful tools today.  Not so much as the primary means for providing content but as a super  source of notes, or to fill in blanks or to provide feedback after practicing alone.  That is the real proof – do students use a resource.  But I’ve also tracked performance in class and students achieve better scores when I can provide more resources.  For example, I’ve done experiments where I offer a homework assignment that serves as a pretest.  In one case I provide video that walks viewers through each problem step by step and in the other case, the students are left on their own.  I then give the two groups an exam over the same learning objectives and the video group has performed 22% better.  That’s significant.  I haven’t been able to tease out whether the important factor is the video or simply providing more resources but the simple answer is clear, the more resources, the better.  It might be that the students do the work with video and without, they rely on a friend to feed them answers.  I’m not sure of the reasons yet.

So this year I am committed to putting all of my lectures online, which takes us back to the beginning of this post.  I’ve wanted to do this for a long time and I am crazy jealous of the Berkeleys and MITs that can do it.  Faculty at each of those schools call the IT department on Tuesday and a camera crew shows up on Wednesday to record the whole thing.  That is the way it should happen – tuition is high at those places, they can do it. Continue reading