Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lecture Capture Boosts Distance Learning at Washington Colleges

To say that the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges' distance learning program is growing would be an understatement. For years, the board's number of online learners has grown by anywhere from 25 percent to 35 percent annually, greater than some of the top institutions for online enrollment and outpacing overall annual online student enrollment growth figures. More recently, the number of "hybrid" students who take some courses online and others in the classroom pushed that percentage up even higher.

"We are up 67 percent in one year, thanks to the growing number of hybrid students," said Cable Green, director of e-learning and open education for the Olympia, WA-based college system, which provides leadership and coordination for Washington's public system of 34 community and technical colleges.

To ensure that new distance learning technologies are applicable across all of those campuses, Green and his team turned to an established, strategic technology plan focused on leveraging funds and resources at all 34 locations.

Technologies for Learning
"Our strategic plan centers around making sure that all students, faculty, and staff have equal and equitable access to a suite of teaching and learning tools," Green said. "That's our primary goal when we buy and implement new technologies."

He said the college system also factors student success and completion into the equation and uses a "student achievement initiative" that ties student success and completion into a system-wide funding policy. "Our colleges are paid to help students succeed," said Green. "We always keep that in mind when deploying new technologies for teaching and learning."

Green's department used that criterion when it put out an RFP for a lecture capture platform in 2010. A few colleges in the system were already using lecture capture solutions, but the technology wasn't readily available--or in use by--the entire grid.

Around the same time, Green started hearing about other institutions that were successfully using lecture capture to record live presentations and make them available online. "The colleges using the technology seemed to be quite happy with their investments and the fact that students could go back and review lectures," said Green. "And professors like it because if a student missed a class, they could just say, 'Hey don't worry, it was recorded. Go review it online.'"

Interested, Green saw lecture capture as the perfect adjunct for a 13-year-old distance learning program whose IT infrastructure was traditionally centered on a single learning management system. New additions since 2008 include a Webinar solution, e-tutoring support, and a 24/7 virtual reference library service.

After issuing an RFP and reviewing several bids, the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges selected a campus-wide system from Tegrity, an ed tech developer acquired late last year by McGraw-Hill Education. Green said the fact that the solution is cloud-based and required no additional hardware investment, made it particularly attractive.

"Had we gone with a hardware based solution, which is what most lecture capture used to be, we'd be setting up five rooms at each college and leaving it up to the professors to schedule time in those rooms," said Green. "Because everything is stored in the cloud, lecture capture is available in every classroom."

The solution is also available off campus--an important point for a college system that relies on a high number of adjunct faculty members and a few who like to work from home on the weekends. "Our faculty members are all over the [nation]," said Green. "Had we gone with a hardware-based solution, the teacher located outside of Washington and unable to physically be here wouldn't have been able to use it."

Faculty members also like being able to record lectures in advance and upload them for student review. That way, face-to-face class time can be used for more productive activities, such as small seminar discussions, debates, Q&A sessions and problem solving. "Instead of just having a professor lecturing in front of the class for an hour," said Green, "the time can be allocated to two-way conversations and other activities."

Technical Concerns, Lessons Learned
Before the lecture capture system was rolled out, Green said, the IT team had concerns about the amount of bandwidth it would require. After all, large, hour-long video files would be uploaded and accessed via the hosted system.

"People were worried," said Green. To avert the problem, he said users take advantage of the system's ability to delay uploads to times (such as very early in the morning) when more Internet bandwidth is available.

Bandwidth wasn't the only challenge for the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges during the lecture capture implementation.

Green said he regrets not involving the individual colleges' IT directors earlier in the game. "Even though it was just a matter of creating a file and pushing out the image to all of the PCs on campus, that process is a highly regulated one among IT groups," Green explained.

"When we told them we were ready to deploy the hosted solution, they wanted to know what it was, what the risks were, and how much space it would take up," continued Green, who added he advises other colleges to learn from the oversight. "When you're dealing with software-based applications that will be housed on all machines, be sure to roll out a communication campaign for your IT directors."

This article was originally posted at

Thursday, April 28, 2011

iPads in the Classroom

By Jessica B. Mulholland

After a year on the market, the iPad is still the hottest tablet around. And students in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have been lucky enough to use them in the classroom for an entire school year.

Teachers at various CPS institutions are using the iPad to heighten student learning at all grade levels. Whether it’s helping special education students “speak” to grocery store clerks on field trips, assisting high school physics students in “building” roller coasters to understand motion and energy, or conducting daily formative assessments to improve student performance, the iPad engages students — and according to experts, that’s the most rewarding part.

“What we’ve found with the iPads as we’ve rolled this out is that having kids with a device such as the iPad in the classroom — within the curriculum — is very powerful,” said CPS Technology Education Director John Connolly. “Our feedback from our teachers and students is that this is something they’re using every day. It’s embedded in all of their subjects, even if they were originally targeting one subject, and we’re seeing some really cool things happening with those students.”

CPS is testing the device in more than 20 schools to see whether it could eventually become a permanent learning tool for the entire school district. Since the trial launched last August, other school districts around the country have followed suit. The expansion of technology in education — and in government at large — is widespread. Over the last several years, many colleges, universities and K-12 school districts, not to mention local and state agencies, have incorporated emerging technology like Apple iPhones and Amazon Kindles into their daily lives. Adding the iPad is just an extension of this.

While some contend that such technology incorporated into the classroom can be more of a distraction than a learning tool, CPS executives, educators and students are proving otherwise.

iPads in Action

At Chicago’s Burley Elementary School, Technology Coordinator Carolyn Skibba said iPads allow for easy collaboration among teachers and students. The administration, she said, was excited about the potential of a device that’s small, flexible, portable, visual and hands-on, especially when working with younger students.

“It really seemed like something that could integrate more seamlessly into the learning experience for the kids,” she said. “We felt that other technology initiatives in the district had to some extent underserved or overlooked our youngest learners, and we felt that the iPad was a tool, because of its visual and hands-on design, would really be a natural fit for our youngest learners.”

The kids have taken to the technology, navigating the iPad’s apps with ease and using the touchscreen like pros, she said. The second-graders in teacher BegoƱa Cowan’s class learn about spelling and pronunciation without having to share a pile of traditional magnetic letters. Instead, each student uses the ABC — Magnetic Alphabet app on his or her iPad to spell “-oom” and “-oop” words. When it’s time to put the iPads away, they each return the device to the cart with two hands held up against their chests to keep it safe.

First-grade students have used apps like Pages, Simplenote and smartNote to help with basic word processing. For one assignment, the kids copied a photo of a totem pole from the Web, pasted it in the app and wrote a few sentences about the meaning of the totem pole, which shows honor when a tribe chief has died.

“We’ve done a lot of explicit instruction on how to use the iPad and basic word-processing skills for young children, and the iPad allows us to take a virtual field trip every day by searching Web content in a way that’s user-friendly for early childhood students,” said teacher Kristin Ziemke-Fastabend.

At the Chicago High School for the Arts, physics students work in small groups to use the Coaster Physics app to create roller coasters while incorporating traditional learning methods, said CPS Technology Integration Specialist Margaret Murphy.

“They start out with sheets to do the mathematics — the physics calculations — and another person is drawing a roller coaster on a large sheet of paper,” she said. “Another is designing it on the iPad, and they’re all sharing with each other, making sure the way their math worked out is working on the iPad, and it is matching what they’ve drawn on their paper.”

When teacher Kevin Cram taught the roller coaster lesson plan pre-iPad, he said several students didn’t have the opportunity to design their own roller coasters, which involved physical materials like pipe insulation that students cut up and glued together to make one-dimensional projects. “Not everyone was able to create as much as I wanted,” he said. “The iPad allowed easy access and manipulation and creation because of this app. So every group got to design and put their ideas into an actual model.”

Also using a blended approach in the classroom is Jenny Cho-Magiera, whose fourth-grade class at the National Teachers Academy used iPads to follow along with a voice-recorded lesson about the anatomy of a flower. The students saw the pages in the book from which Cho-Magiera was reading. Any student who missed the lesson could review that exact lesson at a later time.

Where does traditional teaching enter the picture? Her teacher’s assistant moved from table to table with a real lily to show students what they were learning about.

High-Tech Learning

For Cho-Magiera, the most revolutionary thing about the iPad is how fast she can respond to students’ assessments of the day’s lesson. Before the iPad, the children would scribble something on a half-sheet of paper and turn it in, sometimes forgetting to write their names. Cho-Magiera wasn’t able to react or answer questions until at least the next day.

Now Cho-Magiera said she uses Google Forms, a survey development interface. In about 30 seconds, she can put three or four questions in the form, and the students use the iPads to answer. The results are formulated into a Google spreadsheet in real time, and she can immediately sort through them and form work groups based on which students need help with different topics.

“Just like that, I have my differentiated groups for that day,” she said. “I don’t need to wait 24 hours to put them into a group — when they forgot what they were learning about yesterday. As a result of that, their proficiency has gone up because my teaching has become more efficient.”

Back at the School for the Arts, Cram also uses iPads for formative assessments, utilizing what he calls a “WebQuest.” Cram likes to include both a pre-quiz and a post-quiz, and during a lesson, students investigate different websites on their iPads to research and answer questions. “We can see what areas of growth they have after they’ve done the research,” he said, noting that the answers to both pre- and post-quizzes are submitted via Google docs.

Cram says he hasn’t seen any dramatic improvements in learning since incorporating the iPad, but he anticipates that there will be soon. “The students are much more engaged and interested in the material. And because of that, maybe I’m pushing them a bit more and asking more challenging questions,” he said. “Through practice and more work with challenging questions, and being exposed to that with the engagement at 90 to 100 percent with the iPad versus much lower with a lecture or even hands-on labs.”

The Ground-Up Approach

Incorporating new, up-to-the-minute technology, especially in education, sounds great. It’s been said time and again that students should be taught in ways that they’re comfortable — and they’re quite comfortable with technology. But to critics, technology might hurt more than help the ability to learn. One person questioning the impact of some new technologies on students is President Barack Obama, who at Virginia’s Hampton University commencement, said that with iPods, iPads, Microsoft Xboxes and Sony PlayStations, “information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.”

In Chicago, Connolly said, the way CPS rolled out the iPad trial has helped conquer this challenge. The school district asked its schools to submit applications, which a committee reviewed and then determined which schools would test the technology.

“Not only is that the fair way to do it,” Connolly said, “but it also allowed schools and teachers who were interested in using technology to step to the forefront.” Two hundred schools applied for grants that were valued at more than $20,000. Each grant includes 32 iPads, one MacBook Pro for syncing purposes, $200 in iTunes credit for applications and a storage cart for the hardware.

Professional development has also been a huge part of the trial’s success. CPS partnered with Apple to provide professional development and create a cohort of collaboration across the schools to share best practices and ideas. Teachers train every other month for one day. The morning is dedicated to learning new applications or new ways to incorporate the iPad into the classroom, and the afternoon is geared toward collaboration.

“What we’ve found in the feedback is that teachers love the time of trading stories of how they’re using and implementing the iPad with other colleagues from other schools, in addition to learning something in the front half of the day,” Connolly said. Trainers also provide onsite training in the classroom, so teachers don’t have to be pulled out of class.

Preparation was another factor in the trial’s success. Each teacher devised a blueprint for incorporating the iPad into his or her lesson plans well in advance of receiving the technology. “So they could expand what they were already comfortable doing,” he said.

“All of that together, it’s kind of the ground-up approach.”

Will iPads Infiltrate CPS?

As teachers become more comfortable using the iPad, demand is growing. “Other teachers are peeking in and saying, ‘We want to use that too,’ which is pretty exciting for us, but now we’re running into an issue of people saying, ‘We need that technology,’” said Connolly.

CPS CIO Arshele Stevens said she believes that knowing how to implement and supervise iPad use in the classroom is key to making sure the device doesn’t become a distraction to learning. Part of the original intent of the iPad trial was to ensure that the district served as a guide for all schools to implement the technology. “We’ve always planned, at the end of the trials, to assess, and then if we see a project that’s really transformed a student’s knowledge of a subject matter, to elevate that,” she said. “We want to create a model.”

CPS has three categories of teachers as far as computers go, Stevens said: those who are proficient, those who are fairly comfortable, and then there’s the larger population, which doesn’t even want to use e-mail. “Those are the teachers who really don’t know how to integrate technology in the classroom. It’s not because they’re reluctant; it’s that they don’t know how,” she said, adding that if the district can, based on a successful trial, create a step-by-step process to incorporate iPads in the classroom for a teacher who’s uncomfortable with technology — a process they’re able to execute — that’s beneficial for the entire district.

The plan, she said, is to expand the program next school year not only to additional schools, but also to users in the central office. “We’re hoping to extend its use,” she said, “because we find that most people are really excited about it.”

This article was originally posted at

Tips on PCI DSS Compliance

Too many healthcare organizations have overlooked their obligation to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, says security expert Tom Walsh. Compliance with PCI DSS, designed to help prevent credit card fraud and theft, can help healthcare organizations comply with the HIPAA security rule as well, Walsh stresses. That's because PCI DSS offers far more security specifics than HIPAA, including, for example, specific password requirements, he notes.

"If an organization can meet all of the requirements of PCI, it's going to be in great shape when it comes to HIPAA security compliance," Walsh contends. "The problem is that most organizations just can't afford right now to invest in their infrastructure as well as all of the controls required to meet all the standards required in PCI. If they could, it would be a great help with HIPAA."

Large payment card transaction volume merchants, including many hospitals, must have independent audits and frequent vulnerability tests, Walsh explains. Those with smaller payment card transaction levels are required to conduct a self-assessment and complete a "self-assessment questionnaire." All merchants are required to complete an "attestation of compliance."

In an interview (transcript below) with Howard Anderson, executive editor of, Walsh offers an overview of PCI DSS and suggests key compliance steps, including:

  • Creating a diagram that shows how credit transactions are handled;

  • Identifying all applications and systems involved and creating an inventory of all card reading devices;

  • Conducting an initial self-assessment and creating a plan to remediate any problems identified;

  • Creating a credit card handling policy and training staff annually on how to carry it out.

On May 18, Walsh will conduct an in-depth webinar on PCI DSS compliance in partnership with Information Security Media Group.

Walsh, CISSP, is president of Tom Walsh Consulting, an Overland Park, Kan.-based firm that advises healthcare organizations on information security in healthcare. He has conducted numerous presentations on PCI and has helped dozens of healthcare organizations conduct PCI self- assessments. Walsh also serves as information security officer at San Antonio Community Hospital on an outsourced basis.

HOWARD ANDERSON: For starters, please briefly describe the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard and who must comply.

TOM WALSH: ... To counter the threat of fraud, and unintentional security breaches, the major credit card companies worked collaboratively to create a common industry standard. ... In September of 2006, the five major credit card companies formed the organization called the PCI Security Standards Council, and what the council tried to do was come up with a set of standard data security criteria that they wanted all the organizations that handle or process credit cards to follow.

The standard itself covers both technical and operational system components associated with the card holder data environment. It includes things like the access to credit card data, transferring the information, storage of the information, retention and disposal. They've been updating the standard over the years, and the current version of the PCI Data Security Standard is Version 2.0.

...Mainly the goals are to build and maintain a secure network, protect the card holder data, maintain a vulnerability management program, implement strong access control measures, regularly monitor and test the networks, and then maintain an information security policy. These are all good things and generally considered common practices.

One thing I want to point out is that many people get confused, and they wonder whether this applies to the entire network and to the entire organization. But it really pertains only to those systems or applications that are used for the storage, processing or transmission of cardholder data. That is why a lot of organizations try to segregate out credit card data transactions from their other operations.

Security Controls

ANDERSON: Many healthcare organizations have been focused heavily on complying with HIPAA's privacy and security rules, while sometimes overlooking other industry standards, such as PCI. So tell us about security controls that PCI requires.

WALSH: Many organizations are worried about complying with HIPAA, and they've forgotten that PCI applies globally to any organization that stores or processes or transmits card holder data. So most healthcare organizations accept credit card for payment for co-pays or for paying for their services outright. As part of this, they have to go in and look at these security requirements and they have to do what's called a self-assessment, and that is a questionnaire form they have to fill out and it has certain criteria. The criteria are based on the environment in which your credit card processing takes place.

While the council is really responsible for managing the data security standards, each of the credit card brands maintains its own separate compliance and enforcement program, which makes it a little bit of a challenge. Each card brand has their own determination for validation of compliance, and most of it is based on reporting, and the reporting is usually a requirement for the acquiring financial institutions or banks, or the merchant service processors that work with the organization when they process credit cards.

Generally they'll ask for ... some kind of a letter to provide evidence or proof that the healthcare organization that is processing the credit cards is, indeed, in compliance with the PCI data security standard.

Now sometimes a breach may occur, and that is when these organizations will get involved, and then they'll want to see proof that you've been compliant over the years. ...

One of the things I've seen, which is a trend, is that the banks or merchant service processors are now sending letters to [certain] organizations and they are asking them to prove that they're compliant by going online to a website and completing their self-assessment questionnaire. ...

The other part about this that can be difficult is that when you go on the website to complete the self-assessment questionnaire, many times what is included in that registration process is a vulnerability scan that will be conducted by the organization that the bank or merchant service processor has contracted to go out and conduct the scan. ...

The other thing is, who gets these letters? Generally it's not going to end up with IT or information security; it usually will end up with whoever in the organization has the relationship with the bank or the credit card company. So the bad news is, somebody could be getting this letter and not know what to do with it, and either hold on to it or ignore it. And meanwhile, the folks who really know what they should be doing about it aren't getting the word.

So as far as a compliance audit ... you should be doing it on an annual basis. ... In most cases, my clients, when they go through this, they'll hold on to the result of it and won't turn it over unless they are asked to produce it.

PCI Compliance

ANDERSON: So what are a few of the steps that an organization can take to assess whether they are PCI compliant now?

WALSH: Well some of the things that they need to look at is to figure out who in their organization is handling or processing credit cards. So you've got to look at the various departments. Now in a hospital, it will typically be the departments such as admitting, registration or patient access ... where the patient first checks in and pays for a co-pay. It could be the cashier at the hospital. Patient financial services, which does the patient billing, handles credit cards [as do the] gift shops, cafeteria, any of the outpatient services, such as the pharmacy ... or clinics or urgent care centers or if the organization sells or rents medical equipment and supplies. So those would be areas where credit cards are being handled. So the first step is really getting a handle on the environment itself.

The next step would be to determine who really owns the PCI project. ... They need a high-level executive to take ownership of it. You need to determine what merchant level and type you are -based on the number of transactions you process, and the environment that you process it in - are you using just point-of-sale terminals or are you using some secure website for processing transactions. Then create a transaction work flow map or a diagram that shows how credit card transactions take place in the organization, and where all the data may reside so you have an idea then of what you need to assess. Then identify the applications and systems associated with the processing, storage and transmission of the credit card data. You might want to do an inventory of any of your point-of-sale terminals or cash register systems, or card readers that attach to a workstation.

Then you would conduct your initial self assessment, filling out the self assessment questionnaire. Sometimes [those doing this for the] first time ... may want to call upon a vendor for some help with that. Once they have done the assessment, they will probably find some shortcomings, and that would be something you would put in a report of findings to your executive management to make a determination of the next steps through some type of an action plan, and what is it going to cost to remediate these. What kinds of resources do we need?

Some simple things ... that need to be done include creating a credit card handling policy and then conducting awareness training for all your employees. Now the requirement is to train everyone who is handling credit cards when they are newly hired and then annually. And part of that annual training is that the employee has to acknowledge that they received a copy of the credit card handling policy and understand what their responsibilities are. So those are some of the key steps that need to be taken right away.

HIPAA, PCI Overlap

ANDERSON: And is there any overlap between what HIPAA requires and what PCI requires? WALSH:Well there is some overlap. The HIPAA security rule is kind of vague. It was written that way so it could be scalable. So it doesn't give you a lot of detail, whereas the PCI Data Security Standard is very specific and detailed in its requirements. So for example ... within the HIPAA security rule there is really no specification for passwords other than under the standard of security awareness training that we have to conduct password management training and we have to teach people how to manage their passwords. But when you look under the technical safeguard section, it talks about authentication but it doesn't specify passwords, which is probably the most commonly used method today in healthcare of authenticating a user. When you look at PCI, they have eight specific requirements on passwords. So they specify things like minimum password length and complexity, history and password expirations; it's very detailed.

So, if an organization can meet all of the requirements of PCI, you're going to be in great shape when it comes to HIPAA security compliance. The problem is that most organizations just can't afford right now to invest in their infrastructure as well as all the controls that are required to meet all the standards in PCI. If they could, it  would be a great help with HIPAA.

ANDERSON: Finally, you'll be offering a webinar on PCI compliance strategies May 18, so tell us what information you are planning to provide in that event.

WALSH: In that webinar, I'm going to go into more detail about the PCI Data Security Standard. I'll also be talking about some of the common mistakes that I've seen in healthcare organizations as far as addressing the standard. We'll provide a more detailed action plan. ...

This article was originally posted at

Monday, April 25, 2011

World of Mobile Health

FDA health app regulation won’t cost $30M

In recent months it’s become clear that the media is increasingly turning its attention to mobile health.

The attention, of course, is welcomed by most everyone working in mHealth today, but sometimes it’s painful to read the hyperbole, exaggerations, and misconceptions that are perhaps inevitable with the increase in coverage.

Proteus Biomedical is one company that has noticed this hyperbole. The media often uses words like “Orwellian” and “Big Brother” to describe the company’s medication adherence technology. A recent report over at Dark Daily piqued my interest by stating that Novartis had an exclusive deal with Proteus for all of its drug delivery technology, because we had reported the exclusivity was only for certain use cases, including organ transplant drugs. A rep from one of the companies confirmed the report’s inaccuracy. After all, if it were true it would be tantamount to Novartis acquiring the company, right?

A number of readers called my attention to a Bloomberg report published last week. One reader called the report “totally and completely absurd” among other things.

Bloomberg wrote that the US Food & Drug Administration may regulate the chips in mobile phones along with health apps. They also wrote that FDA clearance of apps and devices could cost device makers more than $30 million a pop. They also quoted someone as stating that the Apple AppStore offered between 20,000 and 30,000 “wellness apps.”

Let’s take these one at a time.

Sure, the FDA has yet to add guidance for ongoing regulation of mobile health apps and devices. It has been suggested that in some cases the FDA could consider smartphones as accessories to medical devices and deserve some regulatory attention. I have yet to hear someone claim that the individual components of smartphones would be subjected to the same review.

What about the costs of such regulation? While some medical devices can cost tens of millions of dollars or even hundreds of millions of dollars, the recent experience of at least two mobile health companies says otherwise. One medical app company and another mobile health device company that secured FDA 510(k) clearance told me that the process cost under $1 million — in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range. Sure, the 510(k) process technically means that the Bloomberg article’s headline is correct and “Apple’s IPhone Health Tool May Get Same FDA Scrutiny as Stents,” but that doesn’t mean it will cost anywhere near as much.

Finally, the article claims that the “online Apple store features 20,000 to 30,000 wellness apps.” That’s one metric we have tracked closely over the years and 20,000 apps, let alone 30,000, is way off the mark. Assuming “wellness” apps are ones intended for use by consumers (could an EMR app for physicians really be a “wellness” app?), our last apps report found that the AppStore offered just under 5,000 health-related apps intended for use by consumers. That was last September. Today, the total number of apps found in the Health/Fitness and Medical categories of the AppStore is still less than 15,000. That number includes those for healthcare professionals, which are usually about 30 percent of the apps, and the miscategorized, which typically hover around 20 percent.

You can watch a Bloomberg video report based on a distillation of the article discussed above over at YouTube. Each of the metrics are discussed in the video. Of course, the video’s introduction is: “I hope you never have to do this, but [if] you need to diagnose a heart attack, well, there is an app for that.”

It’s all downhill from there.

As the discussion heats up around mobile health and the industry enjoys the benefits and pitfalls of sitting atop the Gartner Hype Cycle, let’s do what we can to help the discussion avoid becoming “totally and completely absurd.” Bloomberg, of course, is not alone in the hyperbole but this report was particularly emblematic of the dangers of hype in mHealth. Thanks to those readers who sent it in.

Mobile Learning: The Next Evolution

Learning leaders can take several steps to ensure mobile learning programs are successful.

With the introduction of new mobile products such as the iPad, iPhone 4, Droid and Windows Phone 7, it is not surprising that mobile technology growth rates have quickly surpassed other digital technologies such as radio, television, personal computers and even the Internet. Statistics from the 2010 Tomi Ahonen Almanac show that more than two-thirds of the planet’s population has a mobile phone subscription, and the adoption of user-generated mobile content and applications is exploding.

The almanac also estimated that there were 5 billion cell phone subscriptions worldwide at the end of 2010, meaning the opportunities for m-learning are seemingly endless. IDC estimates more than 35 percent of the workforce will be considered mobile workers by 2013 — some 1.3 billion. Combine those statistics with the fact that the millennial workforce prefers mobile phones over any other personal technology, and the opportunities for learning and development organizations to offer mobile learning seem to be limitless.

Ideally, m-learning should be viewed as a complement to a company’s learning and development strategy, not a replacement for it. Identifying the problem to be solved is the first step in creating an m-learning strategy, and gathering information and measuring results play equally important roles in the process. Often, a pilot or phased approach with a small subset of users is the easiest way to gain momentum for these projects.

There are no hard rules or best practices for implementing m-learning initiatives as part of an integrated learning and development strategy yet. But the following steps will help develop an m-learning initiative that will complement an existing talent management program.

Step 1: Identify business challenges and define strategy. For any learning initiative to be effective, leaders first need to identify what problem that initiative is going to solve. An m-learning initiative is no different, and due to its relative infancy as a learning delivery method, this is an important step to ensure an organization is adopting it for a reason and not just because everyone else is doing it. Common business challenges where m-learning may have value include:

• Enabling access to training content and services across a globally dispersed workforce.
• Offering performance support services to field or sales agents in a rapidly changing industry.
• Delivering just-in-time learning.
• Implementing on-boarding training.
• Delivering straight-to-the-point compliance training.

The second important piece is to define the m-learning program strategy: “Where do we want to be?” As part of strategy definition, learning leaders also should be sure to establish success criteria for any pilots. Those success criteria should address the question “How do we get there?”

Step 2: Define the solution. When defining a solution to address business challenges and fulfill strategic vision, it is important that learning leaders consider specific areas within the organization related to the elements of an m-learning ecosystem. These areas include:

1. Technology or infrastructure: Choose among the countless mobile devices and mobile authoring tools available and consider how they integrate with other learning technologies.
2. Culture: Consider different workforce groups. Millennials prefer mobile phones over any other technology, social learning and just-in-time learning.
3. Content: Consider content conversion strategies for mobile devices and how to make modifications to instructional models to support m-learning programs.
4. Instructional design: Modify traditional instructional design processes to effectively deliver m-learning.

It is easy to overengineer an m-learning solution. When defining a strategy, remember that m-learning is not simply converting e-learning content and making it accessible on a mobile device. This training content can be delivered in multiple modalities, such as handheld computers, MP3 players, notebooks, iPads, iPods, USB drives or mobile phones. M-learning is about the mobility of the learner interacting with portable technologies and enabling learning that focuses on society’s and its institutions’ need to accommodate and support an increasingly mobile population.

As a learning delivery method, m-learning enables a shift away from larger e-learning courses in which content is presented in 30- to 60-minute segments to smaller, bite-sized learning experiences. These smaller learning chunks can be anywhere from three to five minutes and allow learners to retrieve specific information relevant to their immediate tasks, whether on the sales or factory floor. Further, these smaller learning experiences allow content to be easily digested on the mobile device.
M-learning offers many options besides viewing courses on mobile devices. Short message service (SMS) and informal learning are prime examples.

SMS: Consider the ability to conduct a synchronous training session, whether virtual or in person, and allow people to actively participate via text messages with the instructor on course content. SMSs, such as Poll Everywhere, allow for that by displaying live responses in programs such as Keynote, PowerPoint or over the Web. SMS is one of the most basic technological elements for mobile phones. While often overlooked, leveraging it as the first part of the m-learning strategy can provide a quick win for a learning program. Other possible SMS solutions include surveys, questionnaires, polls and voting.

Informal learning: While there is some debate over how to define informal learning, many agree that offering informal learning via mobile device is a good approach. One of the most notable areas of informal learning is social media: social learning, networking and collaboration. In an August 2010 report, Ambient Insight predicted the second generation of m-learning largely will be about mobile collaboration. Organizations that allow for open collaboration have reaped benefits in productivity and efficiency for years. Expanding that collaboration with an m-learning program could enable even greater benefits.

Ultimately, when considering an m-learning solution, it is most important to consider the type of learning the organization is trying to accomplish. Certain types are appropriate for mobile, others are not. Many experts refer to Conrad Gottfredson, senior partner and chief learning officer at TRClark, and his Five Moments of Learning Needs when discussing when to use m-learning:

1. When learning for the first time.
2. When wanting to learn more.
3. When trying to remember.
4. When things change.
5. When something goes wrong.

While organizations can leverage m-learning in any one of these cases, the last three provide the best fit. Consider using job aids, performance support or other just-in-time training when learners are trying to remember something.

Step 3: Pilot the m-learning solution. Using a pilot approach can help to ensure program success. This has become a best practice in the learning industry. M-learning initiatives are no exception, especially given the lack of lessons learned and guidance currently available.

It is vital to match the structure and approach of an m-learning pilot to an organization’s unique needs and requirements. “No two m-learning pilots are alike; one size does not fit all,” said Robert Gadd, president and chief mobile officer of m-learning solutions provider OnPoint Digital. “We have enterprise customers — who actually operate in the exact same markets delivering identical yet competitive services — approach mobile learning in completely different ways. One organization might seek to provide just-in-time training to sales professionals via their ever-present smart phones. Another would look to deliver mobile performance support to field engineers. What’s common in both scenarios is the need to seamlessly deliver, accurately track and securely manage all the device-side interactions back into a centralized LMS platform.”

While there may be significant differences in approaches or implementation related to the pilot, the important takeaway is to understand that pilots limit risk and cost and ensure the m-learning strategy is refined to be successful at the program or enterprise level.

Step 4: Gather information and measure results. Most successful high-impact learning organizations implement strategies to measure learning effectiveness. M-learning pilots should do so as well.
Strategies to measure training program effectiveness are available in a number of formats. Organizations that have been successful with other training initiatives likely have measured the effectiveness of those programs and made adjustments as necessary. The same successful methods can be put to use for m-learning programs. Bersin & Associates’ Primer for the Measurement of Corporate Training framework contains nine measurement areas that allow organizations a structure within which to evaluate training program effectiveness. Understanding the effectiveness of mobile training programs from an individual, as well as organizational, improvement standpoint is a key area of focus when gathering information and measuring results.

Return to the agreed-upon success criteria for the program or pilot during this step. Total enrollments, student hours, completion rates and user satisfaction surveys are all basic areas to focus on with regard to individuals participating in an m-learning pilot. To transition from pilot to program, CLOs need to tie training program measurements to organizational objectives.

Step 5: Adjust the program as necessary. Thoroughly walking through Step 4 should provide the information needed to adjust the m-learning strategy if necessary. Adjustment is not a negative, but rather an integral part of the process to ensure enterprise program success.
Organizations looking to add m-learning as a complement to their existing learning strategies will benefit the most from such initiatives. Simply put, m-learning will not, and should not, replace other learning initiatives, such as traditional e-learning content development workflows and processes or enterprise learning technologies.

Success in m-learning cannot be enjoyed without first understanding common hurdles that exist for organizations embarking on this journey. According to Gary Woodill’s The Mobile Learning Edge: Tools and Technologies for Developing Your Teams, the three main obstacles are:

This article was originally posted at

From Required to Inspired: Education for 21st-Century Realities

Leaders and institutions that succeed going forward will not do so through 20th-century systems of coercion and motivation, but through new systems that place values at the center of an organization’s operations, leadership and culture.

Take a moment to look around an office, or better said, the physical and virtual spaces that constitute an organization. In the typical workplace, one finds a mix of employees from different age groups, diverse educational and cultural backgrounds, and varying experience levels.

Never before have companies asked so much of employees:

• They need employees to partner with colleagues around the world who come from different cultures and speak different languages.

• They want them to go beyond merely serving customers by creating unique and deep relationships with them.

• They expect their people to do more with less.

• They also expect their employees to represent the company and nurture its brand, not only when they’re on the job, but whenever they publicly express themselves in tweets, blog posts, emails or any other social or socially networked interaction.

Organizations increasingly ask their employees to go beyond continuous improvement by conceiving and implementing disruptive innovations that deliver the step changes companies need to thrive amid global competition and more frequent crises.

Leaders and institutions that succeed in inspiring these game-changing behaviors will not do so through 20th-century systems of coercion and motivation, through carrots and sticks applied against rules and policies. Such behavior will be inspired through a new system that places values and principles at the center of an organization’s operations, leadership and culture.

Learning teams need to stop developing leaders for a bygone era of stability, orderliness and command-and-control hierarchies — even the terminology here is wrong. The term talent management, for example, implies tight compliance and monitoring that actually impedes rather than encourages creativity. Efforts should center on inspiring and unleashing talent, not managing or restricting it. Progressive organizations are now focusing on how to move from required to inspired — to create corporate cultures that harness the best of people. When employees are inspired, they create intellectual capital in new and creative ways. For example, dozens of new products, many of them very substantial, have emerged from Google’s culture of ground-up innovation.

A new standard of leadership is demanded that inspires people to unleash their passion, potential and ability to connect and collaborate. This approach requires a greater pursuit of meaning in work; new, higher levels of trust and transparency; living sustainable, not situational, values rooted in deep human, social and environmental purpose; and the understanding that how companies do something today is far more important than what they do. Leadership development professionals not only need to understand these realities, they need to inspire principled performance from others and lead organizations to new levels of success and responsibility. Progressive approaches to educating the workforce and inspiring them by connecting around mission, vision and purpose are key steps in this approach.

Engage to Inspire: Moving to Inspirational Leadership

In the mid-1990s, to reach their diverse workforces, companies introduced e-learning. No longer did all employees need to meet physically in order to discuss and learn about job requirements, expectations, rules and laws. Organizations instead provided educational material through technology that was readily accessible to their entire workforce.

E-learning had its downside though — it created gaps between people and could be fatiguing. Leadership development professionals began to evolve their learning strategies and explore blended and hybrid approaches that bridge cultural gaps and counter online fatigue. They provided networks and learning forums that support learners’ on-demand access and drive for knowledge in every medium possible. With direction from corporate-hosted blogs, wikis and discussion forums, workers were encouraged to create their own user-generated content and use peer-to-peer knowledge sharing to enable personalized learning. Users could place themselves in real ethical scenarios, bringing more relevance and ownership to education programs. With this new social learning approach, collaborative learning began to replace traditional teaching in corporate culture.

Collaborative Learning Feeds a Culture

The days of watching, reading and listening to lectures are almost gone. The future is about conversation and application. The workforce is transferring more trust into peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, not top-down dissemination. Leaders are seeking to keep education fresh and to ensure great impact and adoption. Therefore, curriculum is going beyond compliance to a “roll up your sleeves” commitment. The workforce wants to experience education through working with others — through collaborative learning.

Collaborative activities also help promote cross-discipline and cross-departmental teaming, which enables healthy dialogue by breaking down silos and communication barriers that normally disrupt or challenge corporate culture. Social learning environments allow the learner to experience the scenario or risk unfolding, which can be followed by a knowledge-sharing exercise where a manager-led discussion, either live or virtual, supports peer-to-peer dialogue. As a team, participants wrestle with an ethical dilemma and formulate recommendations for solving the issue. Through this process, teams have the opportunity to process and absorb the knowledge that will guide their actions towards responsible business conduct in real-world situations. Consider adopting a collaborative learning strategy that can be integrated into the enterprise, such as in regular business processes, decision making and awareness education.

A business’ corporate culture will not change overnight. However, adopting a blended approach of learning formats can help ensure a sustained and impactful learning process. Development efforts don’t have to bog down the learner into one pattern of learning and should feature a multitiered teaching approach that copes with generational gaps in technology use and expertise. Always refresh, remind and offer encouragement. Ultimately, learning that sticks is learning that can shift behavior and reinforce and reshape your corporate culture.

This article was originally posted at

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Is your cloud provider HIPAA compliant?

If you’re a Covered Entity under HIPAA Compliance, you may be torn between moving your data into the cloud or maintaining it the old-fashioned way – in your own data center. Either way, you must be sure you’re complying with HIPAA requirements.
Logicalis has developed a 10-point checklist addressing privacy and security of healthcare data.

(1) Policies. Your cloud provider must have a security program that meets the specific policies and procedures required by HIPAA.

(2) People. Your cloud provider should have a dedicated person on-site at the cloud provider whose job is to be responsible for matching the provider’s offerings with HIPAA’s requirements.

(3) Access Controls. It is vital that your cloud provider has access controls in place that include electronic identification and limit physical on-site data access to a restricted list of people.

(4) Encrypted Data in Transit. Unless the provider is processing your data, the cloud provider cannot offer security at the point of input, but it can ensure that the transfer of that data to and from the cloud is encrypted and, therefore, secure.

(5) Encrypted Data at Rest. If the cloud provider is storing healthcare data on hard drives, that data must be encrypted and each drive accounted for at all times. That includes any backup copies of the data as well.

(6) Monitoring. For cloud providers to be HIPAA-ready, daily operational procedures that log and monitor the data in the cloud 24/7 looking for any suspicious activities are a must.

(7) Breach Notification. In case of a security breach, cloud providers must have an incident response process that includes procedures for containing the incident and notification of Covered Entities in accordance with HITECH.

(8) Disaster Recovery. A cloud provider should have a plan to address the recovery or continuation of technology infrastructure critical to a Covered Entity after a natural or human-induced disaster.

(9) Data Location. Know where your data is located; choose a cloud provider that stores your data on a server in the United States. If your data is on servers residing in foreign countries, the data may be subject to search by the foreign governments in those countries.

(10) Experience and Organization-Wide Awareness. Make sure you choose a cloud provider that has a proven track record of successfully managing cloud services for other healthcare clients. You want a provider that has a security awareness program for its entire organization in place so everyone there is on board

This article was originally posted at

Friday, April 15, 2011

Michael Horn on the K-12 Online Learning ?Bubble?

Though activity in the online learning sector is increasing and schools continually adopt the technology, outcomes and quality are wildly uneven, writes Horn.

Michael Horn, who calls himself “an unabashed promoter of online learning,” nevertheless wonders if the growing enthusiasm behind it could possibly be just irrational exuberance. In EducationNext, Horn wonders whether online K-12 education is undergoing a “bubble.”

As the interest in offering more online content is increasing in school districts across the nation, the online education industry is undergoing tremendous growth and upheaval. Horn warns against treating all this activity as a proxy for true education innovation. Even though the industry has seen a $255 million increase in financing this year, overall, the quality of the products remains wildly uneven.

Many companies are hiding behind buzzwords like “online learning,” or “blended learning,” while not offering much of value. At the same time, budgetary pressure experienced by nearly every school district this year drives what Horn calls “a race to the bottom,” forcing companies to churn out the cheapest product at the cost of educational outcomes. Often local school districts make purchasing decisions based on price alone, which means buying programs with questionable or misleading track records.

Horn points out that school districts with thin wallets make for poor consumers, unable to demand what they need from providers and forced to settle for substandard systems that don’t meet the districts’ needs.

Still, Horn says that despite all obstacles, he remains optimistic about the future of online education but says that schools need to be vigilant going forward, “because all too often quality—as measured in actual student results and a lasting and real business model—is not there.”

This article was originally posted at

New Mobile Learning Case Studies

As part of their Value of Investment initiative, the Washington-based Consortium for School Networking has posted two new case studies of mobile learning initiatives in two Texas school districts.

The Rockdale Independent School District recently handed out 150 iPod Touches to 6th graders to use in school in order to increase student achievement and engagement, as well as teacher satisfaction and retention. The school district is also implementing a bring-your-own technology project in its high school to achieve the same benefits with older students.

The Katy Independent School District is in its second year of a pilot program that has put 3G smartphones into the hands of one 5th grade class to use out of school for homework and collaborative projects, the press release says. So far, the pilot program has adjusted the type of phone the students are using as well as the mobile operating system, and has expanded the initial program to 10 more 5th grade classrooms in the district. Like Rockdale ISD, the pilot program has spurred a bring-your-own-technology program in the district's high schools as well.

To read more about the case studies, which detail the implementation of the mobile devices as well as the direct and indirect costs of the projects, check out CoSN's website. You must be a CoSN member to receive the full versions of the case studies, but you can read the summaries for free.

This article was originally posted at

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Trend That?s Keeping Students Safe from Budget Cuts

Gabe Jackson - IT or Information Technology seems to be the only department that some Nebraska educational districts are protecting from upcoming budget cuts. The learning of information is what any school experience boils down to.

What’s key to many educational leaders in Nebraska’s rural area schools is making sure information gets to their students just as fast, if not faster than their larger counterparts. The integration of the World Wide Web with learning and teaching software has certainly brought information to our fingertips like no way before. Nevertheless, schools are making no cuts to ensure that information gets to their students faster.

Today, the learning experience of the average student is drastically different than that of a student ten years ago. Middle schools and especially high schools are looking to tablet computers like Apple’s Ipad to replace the once popular laptop computer. When it comes to communication, 1,000 mbps (mega bit per second) fiber optic networks are being proposed to schools to replace their once cutting edge twenty to fifty mbps high speed cable systems. As a result, schools and their budgets have adapted to stay apace with tech innovation. In America’s heartland, the state of Nebraska is keeping abreast despite the struggles of limited local tax resources and the condition of the American economy. Interviewed high school principals and superintendants of Nebraska’s ESU 15 district understood that if students are not provided with an educational experience consisting of readily available tech tools and advanced class offerings, they simply are not preparing students for college or the job market.

With statewide budget cuts and funding losses, public schools are turning to federal grant programs to soften the blow. The one department that Nebraska schools are making sure stays on track is their IT departments. All the schools in ESU 15 share a similar point of view on the importance of the role of IT in the classroom. Focusing on the ESU 15 school district, which is composed of ten high schools, its superintendants and principals all agree keeping tech safe is keeping students first.

ESU 15’s supervisor, Paul Calvert states “Our ESU unit that assists each individual school in the district is now providing over one-hundred online classes to meet students needs.” He agrees trends must be continued that better equip students to access information. “Many of our schools are looking at integrating Apple’s Ipad and similar devices to put tools in the hands of students that better equip them to learn about art, science, math and everything in between.”

Through Nebraska’s entire ESU 15, not one school planned to cut their IT budgets. In fact, most plan to expand their budgets to ensure their students have access to information as quickly and safely as possible. It seems that these leaders are unwilling to budge and for good reason. No one can count the cost of a short-changed student, but the price will have to be paid eventually. With this social salient fact in mind, Matt Fisher of Chase County Schools adds, “Despite state funding cuts, we don’t see ourselves going anywhere near our IT departments. Once you start giving your students a tool like this, you don’t want to take it away.” Chase County is also one out of three schools in the district that boasts a 1-1 program, meaning they have one laptop for every student that attends school.

The schools in the ESU unit have a wide variance in budgets. Ranging from the small ($2,600) to the large ($200,000+). Medicine Valley Principal Norm LiaKos who works with a limited but effective tech budget and is always looking for ways to provide his students and staff with better access to information. He states, “Technology is no longer the future, it’s the present. Without the proper tools in place, our students will fall behind. We do the best we can with what we have but we aren’t settling. We always strive to do better and are looking to grants and outside funding to offer our students more.”

Jeff Koehler of Maywood schools stands firm on what technology does for students. In Koehler’s eyes, technology provides the tool that unlocks the secret of true education by teaching students to discover what they want to know. “We teach students, you won’t know everything, but you have to know where to find it. Every student is different and making sure that a diverse and flexible resource like the internet is available on 1 to 1 structure allows students to inform themselves on a much broader scale. Our students love the one to one system. Always having access to class materials no matter where they are gives them ability to always be prepared for upcoming tests.” According to Koehler, Maywood schools made their budget cuts six years ago to make room for more learning resources. Maywood is also a “1 to 1” school providing every single student access to technology resources.

There are the positive points of an economic recession. When programs and budgets are stripped down to the bare essentials, institutions must check themselves on what they really need. The educational system in Nebraska is showing that the educational experience means nothing without productive and informed students.

This article was originally posted at

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cost Effective OSHA Compliance Training Programs

Implementing effective OSHA compliance training isn't an expense. It's an investment in your company's greatest asset: your people. But that doesn't mean your OSHA compliance training can't be cost effective. emPower eLearning Solutions provides online OSHA Training courseware and campaign management tools that is less costly than traditional safety training methods.

emPower eLearning Solutions offers the most comprehensive online OSHA compliance training delivery and management solution in the industry. General industry employers must address a variety of safety topics with their workforce. emPower eLearning Solutions's OSHA essentials library will enable you to effectively educate employees on subjects such as:

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Are you looking for safety training materials? Visit our store and shop online for OSHA

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Cost Effective HIPAA Compliance Training Programs

emPower eLearning Solutions is excited to offer a training solution that will help organizations train their entire work population in a timely and cost effective manor. emPower eLearning Solutions Compliance Training is devoted to helping organizations meet the Administrative Simplification Act section 164.530(b)(1). This section requires employers to provide HIPAA Training awareness and Job Role policy training. Our course is designed to reach all level of employees from providers to billing clerks to housekeeping.

HIPAA's intent is to reform the healthcare industry by reducing costs, simplifying administrative processes and burdens, and improving the privacy and security of patient's information.

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Cost Effective Health Compliance Training

emPower eLearning Solutions is the leading provider of effective online compliance and
competency training courses and learning management systems (LMS) to healthcare facilities.  

As a health care management professional, you are not only responsible for providing exceptional care for your patients but also for making sure that the care they receive is delivered within guidelines set by the government and corporate entities. In order to manage your institution, you need to find ways to ensure healthcare security compliance tactics that are effective without draining your resources.

We understand the unique challenges you face trying to implement policies that ensure compliance while providing more effective care for your patients. That’s why emPower eLearning Solutions are dedicated to helping our clients discover new methods to train and educate their staff on ways to improve all aspects of their organization. From improving procedures to providing corporate health compliance training to bringing your hospital or institution in line with the policies of your parent company, we can help.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

The 10 Most Painful Education Budget Cuts

As the economic crisis continues, states and school districts are playing a cruel game of "pick your poison." To close budget gaps, administrators are forced to choose from painful cost-cutting measures that include slashing programs, firing teachers and closing schools.

TakePart assembled a list of March's 10 most painful education cutbacks.

10. Pulling the Plug on Sesame Street: After the House voted to end funding for public broadcasting, the human stars of Sesame Street headed to Capitol Hill in protest. Beloved actors Emilio Delgado (Luis), Roscoe Orman (Gordon), and Bob McGrath (Bob) delivered petitions beseeching the Senate to fully fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which brings educational programming into the homes of millions of children.

9. Classroom Squeeze: Despite the push from parents and teachers to keep class sizes small, budget cuts forced districts nationwide to fill classrooms to capacity. In Los Angeles, the average 11th- and 12th-grade English and math classes have 43 students. Many districts are projecting further classroom size increases for the fall.

8. North Carolina to Close No. 2 School: Academy Heights Elementary is ranked the second-best K-5 school in North Carolina. A 98 percent pass rate on state exams is not enough to prevent the school from closing its doors next year to help narrow an $8.2 million budget gap.

7. Deaf School Dilemma: St. Francis DeSales is one of 11 state-funded schools serving disabled children in New York. This school for the deaf is on the verge of closing thanks to Governor Cuomo’s plan to slash state funding.

6. Ending Child Care Subsidies: To address its $90 million shortfall, New York City’s Administration for Children's Services announced that 200 children could lose their subsidized day care at the end of the month. Another 16,000 could lose theirs in September.

5. Providence School Closures: Mayor Angel Taveras of Providence, Rhode Island, announced that as many as 70 teachers could be laid off under a plan to close four underperforming elementary schools. The school closings will save the district more than $12 million.

4. Boston School Closures: In order to address a $63 million budget gap, Boston’s school district plans to close or merge more than a dozen of its schools. The U.S. Department of Education is currently investigating a complaint that the plan discriminates against black and Latino students who will be disproportionately affected by the closures.

3. Head Start Funding on the Chopping Block: House Republicans introduced a bill this month to reduce Head Start funding by $2 billion—nearly a quarter of President Obama’s 2011 budget request. The comprehensive preschool program provides education, health and nutrition services to low-income children and their families.

2. New Jersey Shortchanges Neediest Kids: When Governor Chris Christie slashed his state’s education budget by nearly 20 percent, crucial services for disadvantaged students began to disappear. Lawyers representing the state’s poorest districts went to court, and Judge Peter Doyne agreed that the funding cuts caused disproportionate harm to at risk kids.

1. Pink Slips Galore: To close California’s $27 billion budget deficit, school districts issued over 19,000 pink slips earlier this month. Schools have until May 15 to issue final layoff notices.

This article was originally posted at

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Change ignites lifelong learning

One way to change an attitude is to change the way one thinks. Similarly, evolving factors of social economics, cultural, demographics and technology continuously demand new thoughts. As society regenerates, so must community members and lifelong learning is the necessary vehicle to drive change.

Essentially, the self-directed adult learner uses a reservoir of experience and schooling to problem-solve and find answers. The employed obtains formal learning at a university to secure a job. A non-formal pupil attends classes at a community real-estate office to learn home buyer procedures. The informal student uses internet expertise to research a personal illness. Distance learning provides online lessons for all learning formats and a growing preference over traditional classrooms.

Once, the mandate for America was to develp a skilled and competitive workforce. Now, due to job losses, budget cuts and lower wages, some citizens want to become business owners and create their own jobs. The Small Business Centers are busy training entrepreneurs who claim the desire for independence and control over their work.

What's more, educators are updating their skills. Numerous immigrants require a host of English as Second Language classes and many teachers must take foreign language studies to better communicate with students. Reformers in higher education have registered their faculty's flaws by proclaiming the effective teacher should be "a guide by the side" other than a "sage on the stage." Rarther than a surplus of lecture, new aims are to integrate more computer knowledge and manage internships to prepare candidates for the real work world.

Summarily, the rapid science-based, postindustrial technology of modern economies has led to a vast increase in productivity with growing complexities. Each new computer technique, service strategy, product invention or fiscal crisis touches off the need for lifelong learning.

This article was originally posted at

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The iPad in the EFL Classroom

With the announcement of the iPad 2 from Apple, it is expected that the next generation of computing is here. Tablet computing has become so popular that many people carry Kindles, iPads as well as the other tablets with them whilst on the go. I recently purchased an iPad and have used it in a learning context as well as in the classroom with my learners. At most, the iPad can organise my reading material for my MA, allow me to browse and download articles from journals, and give me access to twitter whilst in the classroom. My tutor is constantly referring to my iPad as the future of teaching because of the possibility of streaming course books and lessons with iPads.

So are iPads an expensive toy, or are they a useful tool for learners and educators alike? In order to answer this question, I will look at my personal experience with the iPad and its potential use with commercial and free applications available in the App Store.

Electronic Pictures in Class

The first time I attempted to use my iPad in my teaching class, many students were very engaged and interested. I was actually undertaking a professional development course and was being observed when I used the iPad for the very first time. I used the iPad to display pictures that would introduce and elicit vocabulary.

The iPad is incredibly useful in that it allows me to browse the Internet, search for images and download them. This saves using a desktop or laptop and printing the images out for use in class. I can save all browsed images and group them into categories (food, transport, sports, etc). I no longer have to visit the school cabinet and look through folders of pictures to find the right one. Furthermore, the iPad is large enough for students to see in class but light enough to keep in my teacher’s bag. One more thing is that you can setup a slideshow on the iPad: a teacher can arrange a slideshow with 20 pictures, show this to students and then have them try to remember each picture shown. It is especially useful for recycling vocabulary, particularly nouns. Finally, a student can be shown a picture on the iPad and attempt to explain what it is to his or her classmates, who then have to draw pictures. This becomes a useful dictation activity.

Videos in Class

During one lesson, I used the iPad to show a short clip from YouTube to start the lesson. Obviously, you will need WiFi access should you wish to show a YouTube video in class. However, there are Internet applications that can be used to download YouTube videos as MP4 files compatible with iTunes and the iPad.

There are other ways to use the iPad with video that I have not yet exploited. Some of these include choosing one student to watch a short clip with headphones – an advertisement, for example – and then the student has to explain to others what he has just watched. This is a useful reformulation exercise. A similar exercise could include playing a short clip but only allowing students to listen to the video. The instructor would then ask students what they think the video is about. Finally, the screen capture available on the iPad can capture stills of video clips. One activity for students could include showing several stills from a video clip, and students would then have to put them in order and explain what they think would happen in the clip. Students would then compare their ideas with the actual video.

Internet on the iPad

If you are lucky enough to have a small group of students (2-4 learners) or teach one-to-one, you could get learners to use your iPad in class. If your learners are fortunate enough to have their own iPads, this is even better. You could get students to work in groups for a web quest activity and then present their findings to the rest of the class. It is incredible that the Internet is “in your hands”, as Steve Jobs puts it, and that tablet computers (especially the iPad) require no boot time. Students could present to the class with their iPads if they have presentation software such as Keynote installed. Should your school have the latest technological facilities, you may be able to connect the iPad to an overhead projector for the presentation. Students would be able to connect to social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook and interact with the world.

Voice Recording on the iPad

On the iPhone, Voice Memos is included. I have used it to record seminars at the University of Sussex. However, while the iPad has a microphone, Voice Memos is not included. There is, however, one great free app available called “QuickVoice”. It is just the same as Voice Memos on the iPhone. You are able to export to your PC or Mac, replay on the iPad and record in class. This offers great potential to record your students (with permission) when they are participating in a lively debate. Recordings can then be reviewed at a later date. I have asked teachers in my local EFL School to record themselves (in groups or alone) reading from a course book tape script for a listening activity in class. It is incredibly useful having someone act out the tape script at a natural speed for a student listening exercise.

Useful Apps on the iPad

Apart from the productive apps available for the iPad (such as Keynote, Pages or Numbers), there are many free apps available for the iPad which complement learning in the classroom. The following are my five favourite free apps.

1. British Council – Sounds Right

This app is brilliant and you can now refer to it in class. It is an interactive Phonemic Chart for teachers and students. I have used it successfully in lessons and it really engages Young Learners as well as Adults.

2. Thoughts

I came across this app when I was searching for a useful tool to show images of text and prompt speaking or discussion in class. It is a free app that allows you to capture the screen and show images of thought bubbles in class. It is possible to create a game which includes using music, the thought bubbles and a piece of paper. It is really adapted from “Pass the Paper” by David Deubel.

3. Eyewitness

This app for the iPad is great. You can browse different types of images related to current affairs and capture them by using the iPad’s screen capture. This will enable you to use the images for many activities (describe the picture, prompt discussion, etc.) in class. The good thing about this app is that people can browse images that are currently relevant, and The Guardian stores six months worth of images. In addition, pictures are normally updated daily, thus assuring a constant stream of new and interesting images.

4. Dictionary

I became aware of this app on my iPhone and have used it in class with learners of all ages and abilities. It is free and incredibly useful. It provides some phonemic spelling for particular words, offers synonyms and helps learners keep a history of words that they have browsed. I would recommend that any teacher get this app either for the iPhone or iPad.

5. Telegraph

This app is really a useful way to read the newspaper on the iPad. I haven’t used this app in class but I can see the potential for it to assist in language discussion about newspapers, prompt speaking about newspaper articles or look at interesting headlines in class. Like the apps above, it is free and incredibly engaging.

It is interesting to note that technology has become so integral to language teaching. As technology becomes ever more advanced, more affordable and more widely accessed, learners and educators will be expected to use computers, tablets or Kindles to offer a more immersive learning experience within a physical or digital classroom. If used correctly, technology can assist in incidental learning as well as offer teachers or learners additional resources at the touch of their fingertips.

I hope that technology is embraced by other educators and language schools, as the benefits of connecting the classroom to the rest of the world are invaluable. Although it can be very expensive for a school to integrate these new technologies, an interactive whiteboard can be no more expensive than purchasing board markers or erasers over a three-year period for twenty classrooms. It is exciting to think about the future of language teaching, with the potential for digital course books available to students or teachers. On a final note, I have written this blog post entirely on my iPad, which illustrates the point that anything is possible nowadays on a small tablet computer.

This article was originally posted at