Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Michigan Announces Plans to Host Digital Learning Day

LANSING – The Michigan Department of Education, in partnership with the Alliance for Excellent Education, Monday announced its participation as a state host in the first-ever Digital Learning Day campaign and kick off to Michigan’s “Year of the Digital Learner.”

This national campaign is designed to celebrate innovative teaching and highlight practices that make elearning more personalized and engaging for students, exploring how digital learning can provide all students with the opportunities they deserve — to build the skills needed to succeed in college, a career, and life.

“In Michigan, the first state to require students to successfully complete an online course or learning experience, digital or online learning provides a powerful alternative for students who have a need for greater flexibility with their education due to individual learning styles, employment commitments and comfort with traditional school environments,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan said. “There is a significant potential to expand the use of online learning as a practical strategy to help students stay in school and graduate. We’re excited to be kicking off the Year of the Digital Learner on Feb. 1.”

Through this work and by hosting a Digital Learning Day on Feb. 1, Michigan strives to build momentum for a wave of innovation that changes policies, shifts attitudes, and supports wide-scale adoption of these promising instructional practices.

Digital Learning Day will be the start of a year of digital learning activities to be designated as 2012 Year of the Digital Learner.
“Digital Learning Day is more than just a day,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “It is about building a digital learning movement that provides teachers with better tools to truly provide a quality education for every child.  Simply layering on technology alone will not move the education needle very much.  Effective technology combined with great teachers and engaged students have the potential to transform the world of learning.”

As the host of Digital Learning Day, Michigan will highlight a school that is using innovation to make a difference for students. Michigan also will continue to reach out and share resources that support the goals of and participation in Digital Learning Day and 2012 Year of the Digital Learner.

A press conference will be held at East Lansing Public Schools’ Donley Elementary School, 2961 Lake Lansing Road, East Lansing, at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

All education stakeholders — parents; teachers; students; librarians; administrators; policymakers; and school, district, and business leaders — are encouraged to sign up now. Participants will have access to targeted toolkits outlining ideas and ways to plan their Digital Learning Day celebration, as well as updates, informational videos, webinars, and other resources.

No matter the approach, no matter the grade level, no matter the subject or geographic location, no matter a teacher’s specific comfort with using technology, this campaign will challenge education professionals and policymakers at all levels to start a conversation, improve a lesson, and/or create a plan.

To learn more about how to be a part of this groundbreaking event, sign up at www.digitallearningday.org. You can also “like” Digital Learning Day on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NationalDigitalLearningDay and follow the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag DLDday.

Watch the official announcements of Digital Learning Day at www.digitallearningday.org/home-video. For more information on Michigan events, go to www.macul.org/otherevents/year-of-the-digital-learner/.

This article was originally posted at http://ping.fm/5MHPl

Celebrate Digital Learning Day With 40 Years of Times EdTech Reporting

The New York Times has been covering technology's role in education since the paper first began publishing — from an 1872 editorial questioning whether to teach science or the classics to boys of "ordinary abilities," (PDF) to Sputnik-era pieces demanding more technical education for American schoolchildren (PDF) to today, when you can hardly open, or click on, the paper without finding an article that references the impact of technology on schools, learning or thinking.

For Wednesday, the inaugural Digital Learning Day, a "nationwide celebration of innovative teaching and elearning through digital media and technology," we've combed The Times's archives to find articles from 1970 to 2002 on the impact of the digital revolution on education.


Just a quick glance at the quotes we've pulled from each piece will be enough to show you that the questions we grapple with today — on the "digital divide," the educational value of the Internet, whether machines can replace teachers, if computers are changing the way we think, how teens are making the Internet their own, and even whether to "flip the classroom" — are the same ones we've been worrying about for at least 40 years.

One idea? Choose a piece to share with your students and have them guess in what year it was written.

Meanwhile, to further celebrate the day, we'll be enthusiastically lending our voice to the call of the originators, the Alliance for Excellent Education, and our partners The National Writing Project, Figment and Edutopia, to encourage everyone, regardless of previous experience, to explore learning with digital technology by doing three simple things:

(Follow the links above for simple ideas anyone can try.)

We also have our own ever-growing resource page on Teaching With and About Technology, which includes lessons, links to more recent Times articles and multimedia, and a list of more than 25 still-open Student Opinion questions about the digital lives of young people, in and out of school.

So spread the word about this occasion on Feb. 1 by following some of our suggestions and links and joining the conversation. You'll find us on Twitter @nytimeslearning, where we'll be tweeting (and re-tweeting) about #DLDay all day long.

Some Times Articles on Education and Technology, 1970-2002

1970: Time To Teach Those Teaching Machines (PDF)

There are many reasons why the world's most technologically advanced country has remained so backward in the uses of educational technology.

1972: Electronics Seen as Education Key (PDF)

Contending that higher education "now faces the first great technological revolution in five centuries," the commission said that it expected such instructional tools as videotape cassettes, cable television and computers to be in general use on college and university campuses by the year 2000.

1982: Computers Alter Lives of Pupils and Teachers

Mrs. Mattingly of Lamplighter agreed. "It would be hard to keep students toeing the mark," she said. "You'd have an underground group that would be hitting the keyboard early in the morning before classes started."

1984: Computers in the Groves of Academe

A senior at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., says he has "never written a paper onto a piece of paper." Instead, he has done his writing on the word-processing terminals scattered around the campus. Armington has also used computers to study philosophy, create random geometric patterns in a course on art and technology and brush up on his French. To keep up with current events in a banking course, he spent $20 an hour for an electronic clipping service…

1985: Functional Illiteracy in the Age of Technology

Despite the fact that we live in an age of technology – when every new car has a small computer to control the ignition and every newspaper contains articles about toxic chemicals and nuclear safety – most people are essentially unequipped to read and understand these articles. And most people are fashionably proud of it. It is no shame to say, 'Well, I really don't know anything about science.'

1987: Computer Programs as University Teachers

Computers are likely to supplement, rather than replace, textbooks and lectures. Right now, "we're in a cusp where we can see it developing, but it's not quite there yet," said Douglas Van Houweling, vice provost for information technology at the University of Michigan.

1990: In the Mind of the High-Tech Child

Want to program a VCR to record the news every night for five nights? Ask an adolescent. Want to set the digital watch alarm to go off at 6:30 a.m.? Ask a 10-year-old. Literacy may be endangered today, but not electronic literacy.

1991: Classes Once Removed

…as more schools try to teach the subject in practical and sophisticated ways, educators say that some attempt to improve technology instruction is better than none.

1993: The Keyboard Becomes a Hangout for a Computer-Savvy Generation

Sixteen-year-old Jon Leger, a high school student in Port Arthur, Tex., does not consider himself a computer whiz. In fact he doesn't see himself as particularly special in any way.

"People at school treat me like I'm nothing," he said. But on the Internet, the network of networks, accessible to anyone with a personal computer modem, he has found his place in a world that extends far beyond his home city in southeast Texas. "On the net," he said, "people are willing to talk to me. It's a huge self-esteem booster."

1994: In North Carolina, It's Full Speed Ahead Into the Digital Age and New Lessons in Ethics

She put on a skit that she'd written, using two stuffed bears wearing sunglasses who were into software copyright infringement. She showed them a slick, 16-minute educational video that BellSouth has distributed free to thousands of schools in the Southeast, featuring Damon Johnson, the lead singer for the rock group Brother Cane. On the video, Mr. Johnson, who has hair like Cher and wears an earring, greets buddies by saying things like, "I see you finally went all digital," and makes speeches about the dangers of bootlegging software.

1996: A New Gulf in American Education, the Digital Divide

The digital divide between these two schools in the heart of Silicon Valley provides perhaps the most striking example anywhere in the nation of a widening gap — between children who are being prepared for lives and careers in the information age, and those who may find themselves held back.

1997: Internet's Value In U.S. Schools Still in Question

A little more than two years from the January 2000 target date set by the Clinton Administration for having every American school linked to the Internet, nearly 70 percent of the nation's schools now have at least one computer with an Internet connection — even if fewer than 15 percent of individual classrooms have network access.

But the educational value of the Internet — once taken as nearly an article of faith — is being called into question at a time when so many of the nation's students cannot solve basic math problems.

1997: High-Tech Teaching Is Losing Its Gloss

…much of what passes for education on computers is a far cry from the well-crafted programs of Scholastic. Most of it is akin to glorified video games offered in the vague but firm belief that access to endless information, regardless of quality, must be good.

1998: Virtual-Classes Trend Alarms Professors

With the arrival of the World Wide Web, video streaming, multimedia CD-ROMs and computer-assisted research, students now have easy access to more facts than scholars a few decades ago ever imagined, and those changes have made some administrators and taxpayers view a classroom lecture as an inefficient mode of imparting knowledge from one brain to many.

2000: As Computers Idle in Class, Training for Teachers Becomes Priority

The teachers who gathered on Thursday in Room 313 at Public School 122 in Astoria, Queens, for the first day of a workshop called Introduction to the Internet were model students. They studied their list of vocabulary terms like "home page" and "modem." They raised their hands. And when the workshop leader asked a question, they tried to answer:

2000: A Day in the Life of the Wired School

Down the hall, third graders in Ashley Schuck's class were learning how to scan photos into the computer and waiting to use the three digital cameras that float from class to class in the school.

2002: To the Liberal Arts, He Adds Computer Science

…at a time when the corporate world and Wall Street are in the funk of a technology hangover, the students in Mr. Kernighan's class have a perspective that seems a levelheaded antidote to the prevailing gloom, based on conversations with a few of them. They have no illusions that computing is a silver bullet for the economy or a sure-fire path to riches. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Flipped Classroom

The Flipped Classroom is an interesting concept in blended learning, focussing on literally 'flipping' the traditional model of education...

As Karl Fisch identified, regular homework requiring students to apply theory to problems/activities, highlights three groups;

  • A proportion who completed the work with no problems and who probably didn't need the practice

  • A second segment who wouldn't even attempt the homework (didn't want to; not enough time; lack of understanding)

  • A final group in the middle who would attempt the work, but become frustrated because they couldn't do it or had done it incorrectly.

So instead of 'lecturing' at the front of a class for an hour, this 'chalk & talk' 'transmission' element is recorded (short videos, podcasts, screencasts, etc) and given to students (on CD or online) to watch beforehand (or indeed afterwards). What would be homework i.e applying that information to problems, group work, etc, is now done in class - potentially overcoming the two 'problem groups' discussed above.

The original 'founders' of the Flipped Classroom suggests that 'flipping' increases Teacher to student, and Student to Student interaction, since 'the role of the teacher has changed from presenter of content to learning coach'. Having said that, and as Doug Belshaw highlights, it is based on certain assumptions about our education system in which "we've commoditised learning to such an extent that it's becoming indistinguishable from training".

To this, and many of his other points, I agree. We should challenge core assumptions about how we teach, and importantly, how we assess students. However, in the situation we are in today, I think the Flipped Classroom is a great idea: it could be the starting block for teachers to begin to innovate, and an opportunity to engage students through the VLE (Moodle), provide interactive online content, and free up class time to run more engaging and interactive classes. Subsequently, I think this can lead to increased personal interaction with students, increased formative feedback, and importantly, increased understanding and student satisfaction.

There are a number of services to help support this notion of the Flipped Classroom, whether that be existing videos from the Khan Academy (a library of over 2,700 videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and computer science), YouTube or Open Content (i.e. free with some restrictions) from MIT OCW or the Open University's OpenLearn site. Closer to home, we have facilities to capture our own materials and make them available through the Institutional systems such as Equella or the Podcasting Server.

To give you a better idea on the Flipped Classroom, see the video below. The images I used above were also taken from an interesting infographic from Knewton.com.
I'd love to hear your thoughts, and for those interested in implementing this approach, I'd be happy to help. Also keep your eye open for training and posts about the benefits of using multimedia (video, podcasting, screencasts, etc), to enhance learning, teaching and assessment...

This article was originally posted at http://ping.fm/C12pD

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Public Citizen to OSHA: Enforce Labeling Law for Toxic Coal Byproduct

According to Public Citizen, workers using coal slag abrasive are exposed to dangerous levels of beryllium, which has been linked to cases of cancer. Coal slag abrasive coal slag abrasive to blast ship hulls, bridges and other metal structures in preparation for painting.

In a letter to OSHA Enforcement Director Thomas Galassi, the group demanded that OSHA enforce a law requiring manufacturers of coal slag abrasive to disclose that their product contains “dangerous” levels of beryllium.

“Workers have a right to know if they are being exposed to toxic chemicals,” said Justin Feldman, worker health and safety advocate with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “But coal slag manufacturers are not indicating that their product contains cancer-causing beryllium. Some companies even have the audacity to market their product as non-toxic. OSHA needs to enforce the law and end this practice at once.”

OSHA’s right-to-know rules require manufacturers to disclose the toxic chemicals in their products if workers might be exposed to unsafe levels. According to Public Citizen, a number of studies have demonstrated that people working with the product are routinely exposed to levels of beryllium that exceed OSHA Training standards. Beryllium exposure causes lung cancer and chronic beryllium disease, a debilitating lung condition.

“OSHA’s enforcement staff has known about this issue for several months, and we are calling on them to do the right thing,” Feldman said. “Dozens of blasting workers die each year from beryllium exposure. If OSHA just enforces the rules that are already on the books, it will save lives.”

The letter is available at http://ping.fm/fA9AB.

10 Innovative & Practical Applications of SMART Tech

Both of the above quotes come to mind when I am asked, “What does a SMART Board interactive whiteboard do?” The answer is, “Pretty much anything you want it to.” The brush is only as powerful as the imagination and talent of the painter. Creative teachers and skilled artisans share the skill of being able to use the tools they are given to create magic. Good teaching trumps good technology all day long. What good technology can do is enhance and enrich teaching and learning. Using technology for technologies’ sake, electronic traditionalism if you will, lends little to the evolutionary process. If, however, the technology is used to personalize learning through differentiation, support cooperation and collaboration and create experiences otherwise absent, or too difficult or expensive, then we have hit the sweet spot Scott Noon refers to as “Technoconstructivism.”

The SMART Board and SMART Notebook software collaborative learning software are tools that can be used for whole class, small group and individual learning. The below list includes creative ways I have seen the SMART Board used.
1. Small Group/Center Formative Assessment

The best SMART Board is a “sticky” SMART Board. Sticky because it has had kid’s hands all over it. Students working in small groups at the SMART Board as part of a rotation of learning centers in can be used for practice and reinforcement. Notebook software’s Lesson Activity Tool Kit includes customizable flash-based templates that can be used as check for understanding and guide instruction.
2. Virtual Experiences

Some experiences are too expensive or too dangerous to do “for real.” Within Notebook there are 3D objects and virtual manipulatives that allow “hands-on’ish” exploration. There are third-party websites such as Energy Skate Park where students can learn from and with each other and the experience is enhanced by the SMART Board.
3. Reteach/Enrich/Remediate

SMART Recorder is a tool that allows anything that is shared on the board, including voice when a microphone is present, to be saved as a video file. Making these files available can help not only students who may miss class, but also those who may be struggling with certain concepts.
4. Flip the Classroom

Several creative instructors are experimenting with flipping the class whereby videos take the place of direct instruction, allowing students to get individual time in class to work with their teacher on key learning activities. It is called the flipped class because what used to be class work (the “lecture” is done at home via teacher-created videos and what used to be homework assigned problems) is now done in class. SMART Recorder allows teachers to capture direct instruction with one-touch simplicity.
5. Abstract Made More Concrete

SMART Notebook software has an available Math Tools plug-in to quickly create visual representations of a wide range of concepts from elementary school fractions to algebraic functions in AP calculus & HS science courses. These visuals can help students understand abstract concepts by representing them more concretely. Similarly, Notebook has the ability to display 3D objects, some of which are included in the gallery, others available for free download from the Google 3D image library. These images, when paired with a mixed-reality ready document camera, like the SMART Document Camera, allow the manipulation of objects in space from all angles.
6. Enhances Concrete, Representational, Abstract (CRA) Instructional Approach for Mathematics

There is an elegance and agility as the SMART Board accommodates all three with phases without having to change presentation tools as you would in more traditional spaces.  In this model of instruction, young mathematicians use concrete materials to manipulate to solve problems, the SMART Board with the SMART Document Camera help teachers use those materials in their true form vs. overheads which require special transparent objects to do the same.  Kids are using the same materials at their seats that teachers use beneath the document camera. In the representational phase, virtual objects such as drawings and pictures are used. The Notebook Gallery has thousands of virtual manipulatives teachers can use with students as they begin representing equations. Finally, the abstract phase involves the use of operational symbols and written equations.  SMART Notebook Math Tools software includes an equation editor that allows teachers and students to manipulate numbers and see these graphically represented. Please visitTeaching With SMART Board and Harvey’s Homepage to see some examples. 
7. This Board is Your Board…Not So Much My Board

Students learn by doing. Having teachers get out of the way and let the students use the SMART Board and Notebook software to demonstrate understanding of a concept or problem should be at the center of pedagogyGranted, perhaps only a few students can be directly engaged at the board at a given time, however there is value in peer-teaching and the opportunity to develop presentation skills and sharing with a group. Cooperation and collaboration are fostered and enhanced when students can work with one another versus being passive participants. 
8. Interactive Canvas in Notebook

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is vitally important, but I like to think of it in terms of “STEAM” and the A stands for Arts. In the Art classroom, the SMART Board becomes an interactive canvas using another tool called ArtRage.  Since the SMART Board is not pen-dependent, students can use a wide variety of real brushes coupled with the software brushes to paint, draw, explore color, etc. These paintings can be the illustrations for original books. Notebook software allows students to create and author stories to compliment their art as it is ideally suited for both text and drawings. Notebook software also allows direct import into PDF format so their books can now be read using any computer, such as Kindle, most eReaders, iPads and iPod touches. Students absolutely love the fact that their work is digital and can be shared with readers across the world.
9. Enhanced Lecture

As a predominantly constructivist teacher, there were times I suffered from “lecture guilt”. However, there are times when – dare I say it – the best way to help students learn is to actually teach them explicitly, via direct instruction. There are tools within Notebook software such as SMART Video Player that enable the SMART Board to become a media hub of sorts. The seamless integration of third-party audio and video resources can serve to differentiate instruction and appeal to multiple intelligences for those times when direct instruction is appropriate.
10. Electronic Professional Learning Communities

Admittedly, this suggestion appears to be out of place in a list of creative ways to use a SMART Board. However, I like a quote from James Surowiecki’s Wisdom of Crowds; “And much of what we’ve seen so far suggests that a large group of diverse individuals will make more intelligent decisions than even the most skilled decision maker.”

Put another way, there are brilliant, creative educators who are doing incredible things with their SMART Boards. However, the skill and expertise of any one SMART Board guru is dwarfed by the collective wisdom of the crowd. Technology blows the walls off the school and makes professional sharing possible. Visit the SMART Exchange website and search thousands of lessons created by classroom teachers and well-known education publishers that you can use whole cloth or customize to use with your students. The Exchange also contains a forum where you can connect and create your own User Groups.

There are other terrific resources such as SMART Board Revolution that allow you to collaborate by sharing ideas, and tips in an effort to maximize our students’ learning. Whether it be in your building, your district or an on-line community, connecting with other educators and having the confidence to share and the humility to learn is essential in moving teaching practice forward.

Please note the above list is not meant to be exhaustive nor prescriptive. Hopefully you find it helpful.  I would love to hear other examples of creative ways you’re using your SMART Board.

Brady Phillips began working with SMART in 2007 as Manager, North American Education Consulting, and is currently Manager, Education Practice.

This article was originally posted at http://ping.fm/t6qUh

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Understanding the Impact of eLearning & Distance Learning on Your Net Operating Profit

 When a learning professional is “STRATactical,” it implies that he or she fully understands the strategy needed to be successful as they tactically engage in behaviors to achieve success in the development and delivery of all learning services and products, with a keen understanding of the importance that eLearning and Distance Learning have on the financial success of an organization, while at the same time, building a learning legacy more influential than when they arrived at the organization.

Although learning professionals operate within a business structure, we have not been traditionally seen as business savvy or having much business acumen. However, if we can “walk the talk” of business operations -- acquire sufficient business acumen -- we will both portray and impact our organization’s financial growth and lend legitimacy to the administrative and operational functions learning brings to an organization.

As an example, when I retired from the FBI to begin my career in business, I was unprepared for the “language of business” to meet the challenges posed to me by CEOs, COOs and CFOs. I fully understood the goals aligned to the business strategy, however, I lacked an understanding of the business acumen and how to align a learning function with a business operations foundation. The road ahead meant I needed to embark on learning how a business functions and what the drivers are behind those functions.  My road led me to complete three years of courses in a Doctoral studies program in Business Administration. I needed to align learning and development (L&D) to the organization’s strategy and provide tactics to impact the business through L&D initiatives and programs. Fortunately, the learning technologies and tools were advancing as rapidly as my understanding of business operations, resulting in my passion for and belief in eLearning and distance learning as the key discriminators to affect the net operating profit of a business. These tools simultaneously provide learning opportunities that are on-demand, just-in-time, ready-to-learn, while they personally and professionally grow an audience of employees.

Not only are industries changing and disappearing, internal management functions are changing and some are disappearing as well. For the organization’s learning professional(s) to succeed, they must engage in an understanding of the functions within the business organization that are the heartbeat of business operations.  A professional colleague, Wally Adamchik, President of Be A Firestarter, recently advised me, “You may offer effort, but you are judged on results.”

Simply offering courses, whether they are instructor-led or eLearning, web-based or utilize distance learning, is not enough, learning professionals must clearly provide training to the business operations functions and they must do so with an eye on the business impact they can influence in learning outcomes and financial savings and revenue generation.  In short, learning professionals must not consider themselves as an administrative function, rather as an operational function to support their business.

Another professional colleague, Kevin Cope, President and CEO of Acumen Learning recently advised me, “If you can contribute to your company’s cash and cash flow, you’ll be valued as an employee who practices business acumen -- and you’ll help fuel the success of your business. Further, how much more effective would you be as leaders and decision makers by first knowing the key measures and then what the trend or change is of those numbers, the ‘why’ behind the changes and then identify how they can impact the number(s) within your individual role?”

Dick Davies, President of Sales Lab DC, advised me “….how quickly an attitude and behavioral change can trigger a significant performance improvement…[and] finding and implementing a skill or practice that improves performance is an important behavior…”  As reinforcement, Scott Eblin, author of The Next Level, has stated, “…we must abandon the behaviors that made us successful previously, and embrace new behaviors where different results are expected.

Acting STRATactically
I trust I have outlined a solid foundation to my belief that learning professionals must provide business impact to an organization through the development and delivery of learning services and products. So, where do you begin?

With an eye on the business impact, first look at developing a training needs analysis and decision matrix culminating in an enterprise training initiative aligned to business operation functions.  Ask yourself and ask business function leaders within your organization, “Which functions have the greatest impact on our business success? Prioritize those functions and choose the top three.  Start with the most important function and determine the roles within that function that are the wheels behind driving that function. There may be two, three, maybe ten or more, but establish the priority of those roles too.

In discussing with the functional leader, determine:

1) who within that role is a subject matter expert (SME),
2) what is the voluntary turnover/resignation rate of employees within that role, and
3) what does that cost the business in dollars – which may include lost direct revenue, recruitment monies spent to find a replacement, time to train the new employee, etc.

Determine with the SME what courses related to that role are currently offered within the organization or through a vendor. Continue the discussion with the SME by asking if those are the courses needed to function within that role within the organization. There may be courses that are missing – it is now you are performing a training gap analysis. With the SME make a list of the requisite courses to function within that role – and identify them as basic, intermediate and advanced. Contact former employees within that role, those that voluntarily resigned, and ask them if this new list of courses, if offered, would have made a difference in their decision to leave the organization.  Now, with the SME and concurrence of the functional leader, prioritize the courses within that role that are required and develop those that are missing.  It is now you need to determine if an instructor-led (ILT) or eLearning (eL), web-based (WBT) or distance learning (DL) course is the correct way forward in closing the gap on training within that functional role.

To assist in your decision making whether to develop and deliver or purchase and deliver the course(s) as eL, WBT or DL, use the language of business – conduct a financial analysis and employ cost comparison methodology for staffing, development, delivery, production of course materials, costs of classroom space, multi-media, travel and per diem, record keeping, etc. Once completed, now you can return to the training analysis methodology and repeat for each role, within each function and you will have the financial information documented to justify your eLearning and distance learning approach to training within your organization.  And, when you proven your eLearning and distance learning approaches have improved bottom-line savings to corporate expenses, it will be time to turn your developed content into a revenue generation model which will improve top-line growth and the learning function will be recognized as a viable business operation within your organization.

Learning professionals who have kept pace with learning technologies and tools know that eLearning and distance learning capabilities deliver similar, if not more powerful, learning impact for the learner; now, armed with a training needs analysis approach and a cost calculation model, the road ahead is clear.  Lead by example – exemplify the behavior needed to focus on eLearning and distance learning to impact the net operating profit of your organization.

Alan A. Malinchak is the Chief Learning Officer at Homeland Security Solutions, Inc. (HSSI). Malinchak can be reached at malinchaka@homelandsecurityinc.com, or contact him through LinkedIn.

This article was originally posted at http://ping.fm/gdTqB

Study Shows Algebra iPad App Improves Scores in One School

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="620" caption="Students at Presidio Middle School use the HMH iPad algebra app."]

As Apple pushes out its new education products, new information about whether using the iPad gives students an advantage over using print books is starting to surface.

Results from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s year-long study comparing students using the publisher’s iPad algebra app are in from Amelia Earhart school in Riverside, Calif., and it’s largely positive, according to the company.

The study showed that 78 percent of students who used the HMH algebra iPad app scored “proficient” or “advanced” on the California Standards Test, compared to 59 percent of students who used the textbook version. “As students were randomly assigned to use HMH Fuse, the results indicated that use of the app was the chief cause behind the improvement in student test scores,” the report states.


Some of the advantages of the app, according to the report:

  • Allowed parents to provide more support to their children: “Parents could watch the videos or review problems with their children to help them if they did not understand.”

  • Students were much more motivated during class and were more interested in the subject.

  • Changes in student learning outside of the classroom. Students reported reading more and trying to work independently outside of class when completing homework. Also, students were coming to class explaining that they had watched the video multiple times at home.

MindShift covered the pilot project when it first launched last year at the Presidio Middle School in San Francisco.

Algebra teacher Jeanetta Mitchell, who piloted the app in her class, said at the time that there was definitely an adjustment period and different levels of expectations, both on the part of students and administrators.

She said that when the pilot first launched, test scores for the class using the iPad were actually lower than those using the traditional textbook.

“I had a conversation with the class explaining to them that the iPad was not the panacea of all ills.It wasn’t going to do everything for them, that they still had to think,” she said. “You have to beengaged. It’s not giving you the answers; it’s helping you get the answers.”

But even more importantly than scores, Mitchell noticed that some students who’d showed no interest in math in the past are hooked. “I have students who are participating in this class who did not participate in their previous math classes, so it does engage them,” she says. “Is it going to make them all brainiacs and straight A students? No it’s not going to do that. But it will keep them engaged.”

This article was originally posted at http://ping.fm/AlqmU

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Top Education Next Articles of 2011!

Which Ed Next articles were most popular in 2011? What follows is a countdown of our top 20 articles, measured by page views.

Several of the articles take readers inside classrooms to see how some much-vaunted policies and innovations (e.g. differentiated instructionblended learning) are working in practice. Several other top articles look at howthe performance of U.S. students compares to that of students in other countries. Quite a few relate to teachereffectiveness and compensation. Only two of the top twenty articles focus on technology and learning.

Which Ed Next authors penned the most articles in our top 20 list? Eric Hanushek leads the pack with 4, followed closely by Ludger Woessman with 3 articles. Paul Peterson, Mike PetrilliJune Kronholz, and Michael Podgursky all wrote 2 articles in the top 20.

While most of the articles on our list were published in 2011, some are oldies that generated new interest this year (including two articles from our archives about teacher pensions and other benefits).

Here are the top 20 articles for 2011:

20. “Gender Gap: Are boys being shortchanged in K-12 schooling?”
by Richard Whitmire and Susan McGee Bailey
In this forum, two experts consider whether, after years of concern that girls were being shortchanged in male-dominated schools, boys are now the ones in peril.

19. “Merit Pay International: Countries with performance pay for teachers score higher on PISA tests,”
by Ludger Woessman
This study finds that student achievement is significantly higher in countries that make use of teacher performance pay than in countries that do not use it.

18. “The Turnaround Fallacy: Stop trying to fix failing schools. Close them and start fresh,”
by Andy Smarick
This article reviews the evidence on school turnaround efforts and concludes that they are not the solution for the nation’s failing schools.

17. “Academic Value of Non-Academics: The case for keeping extracurriculars,”
by June Kronholz
This article looks at links between student involvement in afterschool activities and academic achievement.

16. “An Effective Teacher in Every Classroom: A lofty goal, but how to do it?
by Kati Haycock and Eric Hanushek
In this forum, two experts debate the best ways to identify effective teachers and to increase the number of effective teachers in high-poverty schools and communities.

15. “Teacher Retirement Benefits: Even in economically tough times, costs are higher than ever,”
by Robert Costrell and Michael Podgursky
This study documents the growing gap between high employer pension costs for public school teachers and lower employer pension costs for private sector managers and professionals.

14. “Are U.S. Students Ready to Compete? The latest on each state’s international standing,”
by Paul Peterson, Ludger Woessman, Eric Hanushek, and Carlos Xabel Lastra-Anadon
This study found that U.S. students rank 32nd among industrialized nations in proficiency in math and 17th in reading.

13. “Fringe Benefits: There is more to teacher compensation than a teacher’s salary,”
by Michael Podgursky
This article examines the ways in which simple comparisons between teacher salaries and salaries of other kinds of workers can be misleading.

12. “Challenging the Gifted: Nuclear chemistry and Sartre draw the best and brightest to Reno,”
by June Kronholz
This feature story takes readers inside the Davidson Academy, a public school in Nevada for highly-gifted students.

11. “Sage on the Stage: Is lecturing really all that bad?”
by Guido Schwerdt and Amelie Wupperman
This study finds that students score higher on standardized tests in math and science when their teachers spend more class time on lecture-style presentations and less time on group problem-solving activities.

10. “When the Best is Mediocre: Developed countries far outperform our most affluent suburbs,”
by Jay Greene and Josh McGee
The first-ever comparison of math performance in virtually every school district in the United States finds that even the most elite suburban school districts produce results that are mediocre when compared to those of international peers.

9. “The Flipped Classroom: Online instruction at home frees class time for learning,”
by Bill Tucker
This article traces the development of “flipped instruction,” in which students view video-taped lessons or access online material at home and then use class time to work through problems and engage in collaborative learning with their teachers.

8. “Valuing Teachers: How much is a good teacher worth?”
by Eric Hanushek
This analysis considers the economic impact of replacing ineffective teachers with effective ones, and estimates the gains to U.S. gross domestic product that would result from boosting academic performance.

7. “Time for School? When the snow falls, test scores also drop,”
by Dave Marcotte and Benjamin Hansen
This article examines the evidence that expanding instructional time is as effective as other commonly discussed educational interventions intended to boost learning

6. “Creating a Corps of Change Agents: What explains the success of Teach for America?”
by Monica Higgins, Wendy Robison, Jennie Weiner, and Frederick Hess
This study examined the work histories of people leading entrepreneurial organizations in education and found that Teach for America alumni were heavily overrepresented.

5. “Teaching Math to the Talented: Which countries—and states—are producing high-achieving students?
by Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson, and Ludger Woessman
This study compares the percentage of U.S. students with advanced skills in math to percentages of similarly high achievers in other countries, and finds that 30 of the 56 other countries participating in PISA have more students scoring at an advanced level.

4. “All Together Now: Educating high and low achievers in the same classroom,”
by Mike Petrilli
This feature shows how one school is making differentiated instruction work–challenging every child while avoiding segregating classrooms.

3. “All A-Twitter about Education: Improving our schools in 140 characters or less,”
by Mike Petrilli
This article looked at the role Twitter was playing in education policy debates and ranked the top 25 education policy/media tweeters and the top 25 educator tweeters based on their Klout scores.

2. “Future Schools: Blending face-to-face and online learning,”
by Jonathan Schorr and Deborah McGriff
This feature, an early article on blended learning, profiled several charter schools using the hybrid approach.

1. “Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness: Can classroom observations identify practices that raise achievement?
by Tom Kane, Amy Wooten, John Tyler, and Eric Taylor
This study of Cincinnati’s teacher evaluation system finds that the teachers who receive high ratings from trained evaluators who observe them are also more effective at promoting gains in student test scores.

Congratulations to all of our authors, and stay tuned — next Friday we’ll post the top 20 blog entries from 2011.

-Education Next

Designing the 21st Century K-12 Classroom

It's not enough to take a traditional K-12 classroom and fill it with technology. The smart classroom requires a more methodic approach that factors in the design of the basic shell, the teacher's space, and the students' independent and collaborative work areas.

Schools that ignore this step, said Issac Herskowitz, director of New York-based Touro College'sinstructional technology program, will wind up with smart classrooms that fall short of their goals. "Designing classrooms for today's learners requires a different approach than what's been traditionally employed in K-12 settings," said Herskowitz.

Here are six design elements that should be incorporated into the 21st Century classroom.

1. Desks and furniture that support collaboration. The days of the single desk and chair are gone, according to Herskowitz. He said he envisions a time when all K-12 classrooms are developed around the concept of collaboration--between student and teacher and among the students themselves.

"You want students to be able to do discovery learning and to work together on projects and problem-solving," said Herskowitz.

To support that concept, he said, furniture should be able to accommodate multiple learners and then be repositioned for independent learning (such as testing). "When you start with this foundation," said Herskowitz, "the collaboration comes naturally."

2. Ample electrical outlets. Not all students will come to class with their iPads and laptops charged up and ready to go. To make sure 21st Century learners have the power they need to engage in classroom activities, Amber Golden Raskin said her school uses a combination of electrical outlets, some of which are integrated into the classroom furniture, and power strips that are distributed through the classroom.

"Think about your students' current and future power needs early in the design phase," said Raskin, executive director of business development and operations at SCVi Charter School in Castaic, CA, "and you'll avoid the hassle of having to add more at a later date, post-construction."

3. A "smart" teacher lectern. Teaching in a smart classroom requires a "smart" lectern, said Herskowitz, who advised schools to put time and money into the structures that teachers will use as their home bases. USB ports that allow for easy document camera connections, interactive whiteboard equipment controls, and other features should be incorporated into the fixtures.

"You really want to make everything accessible for the teachers that are using the technology," said Herskowitz. "If instructors are comfortable in the space and able to use all of the tools that you put in front of them, half the battle is won."

4. Lighting that's easy to control. With audiovisual technology becoming more advanced and even more useful in the K-12 classroom, the need for lighting that's easy to dim or enhance is imperative. The student sitting furthest away from the projection screen, for example, must be able to see the workspace clearly and without interference from shadows.

"Factor in the natural lighting, the fixtures, and the controls," said Herskowitz, "and focus on accessible lighting controls that allow the teachers to adjust quickly."

5. Physical space that goes beyond the single classroom. Who says the 21st Century classroom has to be a single room? At SVCi, a four-year-old charter school, Raskin said holes were intentionally punched in classroom walls to help create a collaborative environment that expands beyond a single room. "Students and teachers can go in and out of the openings, which are covered by curtains when not in use," said Raskin.

The strategy works particularly well when teachers collaborate on interdisciplinary projects. "Being able to share across classrooms is a big deal here," said Raskin, "and something that we strived for when designing our learning spaces."

6. Fewer expansive gathering areas. The traditional, campus-wide auditorium didn't have a place at SVCi. Instead there are several mid-sized gathering areas designed to accommodate three or four classrooms full of students who need to come together to share, collaborate, or watch a live presentation.

"We went with smaller common areas rather than just one big assembly room," said Raskin. "Our goal was to get students exercising the 'expression' muscles in smaller groups that lend themselves to more participation and collaboration."

At its core, Raskin said, the modern-day classroom's design should revolve around the idea that students should no longer be sitting alone at desks "spitting out answers" to a teacher who stands behind a podium. "In the last century we were a factory-driven society and schools were designed around that concept," said Raskin. "Today we must create spaces where students can collaborate and participate in real-life environments where they can learn how to work on teams; that's what they'll be doing in the work world."

This article was originally posted at http://ping.fm/5WBxj

For Digital Learning, the Devil?s in the Details

When former governors Jeb Bush and Bob Wise strode to the stage at the 2011 Excellence in Action National Summit on Education Reform in San Francisco last October, Sal Khan had just shown the 750 attendees his vision of the digital future.

Khan is the former hedge-fund analyst turned education rock star who started Khan Academy, a nonprofit that reaches millions through its free online lessons and assessments. Tools like these, said Khan, can catapult education from its time-based roots toward a competency-based model in which students progress upon actual learning—mastery—instead of seat time.

At the same conference a year earlier, the two former governors, cochairs of Digital Learning Now!, released “10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning.” This year, Bush and Wise said they had evaluated each of the 50 states against the elements and explained the assessment methodology they had used: states were judged against 72 individual metrics. (Disclosure: I was one of many who provided feedback on how different states ranked on the criteria and serve as a “digital luminary” for the Digital Learning Now! effort.) Rather than announce where the states fell in the ranking, the governors gave the crowd a preview of their “Roadmap for Reform,” a guide to help states navigate different paths toward changing their online education policies (see sidebar).

With the road map in place, one might assume that moving into the future will be a straightforward exercise: the pieces are all there and model legislation is forthcoming, so state policymakers just have to enact the 10 Elements.

Of course, things are never so simple, and many questions remain.

Some questions reflect legitimate disagreement over Digital Learning Now!’s recommendations, even among those who agree with its broad vision. An obvious flash point will be the idea that states require students to take at least one college- or career-prep course online to earn a high school diploma.

One argument in favor of the requirement is that the outcome from taking an online course—gaining the skills to succeed in a digital environment and perhaps become more self-driven—is valuable in a world in which postsecondary education and workforce training are increasingly done online. Yet some see this as yet another input-based requirement in a system already overburdened with mandates, and in conflict with the spirit of digital learning: if the experience is so important or compelling, won’t students naturally flock to online learning, particularly given Digital Learning Now!’s recommendation that dollars follow students to the online course of their choice?

Another consideration is that elementary-school students don’t take courses—at least in the sense that high-school and middle-school students do—and so ensuring that elementary-school students have access to online learning at the course level seems to miss some fundamental principle. According to the state report cards, though, several states have achieved their goals at the elementary-school level, which only raises more questions.

Many of the pieces that Digital Learning Now! casts as critical to the endeavor are not yet in place, and therefore no one actually knows how they will work in practice. For example, Digital Learning Now! has hitched its wagon to the enactment of the Common Core standards and accompanying next-generation assessments that should be in place by 2014. Whether these assessments will facilitate a competency-based learning environment unburdened by time—or lock in today’s system—is yet to be seen. States may abandon the digital effort when they see the up-front costs of implementing an online assessment system. And if they do, what will that mean for a plan that rests on paying for achievement instead of seat time? Valid, reliable, authentic, on-demand, and independent assessments are critical to moving to a system based on student learning outcomes. What about those courses that don’t fall under the Common Core? Does an outcome-based funding system require extending the Common Core to all subject areas, or will states create unique standards for subject areas other than math and English? Could entrepreneurs develop competency badges for their students that the public would recognize as legitimate? How would such competency measures be accredited?

A number of operational challenges need to be worked out as well. Utah, for example, passed in the spring of 2011 Senate Bill 65, based on the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning. Utah state senator Howard Stephenson declared that the bill ends the “tyranny of time and place” in education by allowing dollars to follow high school students to their online course of choice. The legislation calls for the state to withhold 50 percent of the provider’s fee until the student successfully completes the course.

Not surprisingly, the devil has been in the details. Crafting a viable funding model for online courses that makes sense for districts and providers alike has not been easy. Even more challenging is helping schools and districts transition to a world in which students still need some of the services they provide but take most of their courses online. How does funding work in this model? How do schools create the flexible schedules and offer the critical services—many of which may be nonacademic—to accommodate students’ varying needs? How do they transition to this service—or community center—model?

A related set of issues plagues the funding model from the state’s fiscal perspective. If students progress based on competency instead of cohort, the state should presumably reward schools and providers that help students progress faster. And Digital Learning Now! suggests that it should reward those providers that help students make the most growth. Set aside for a moment the demands on state data systems created by an outcome-based system that rewards growth and the fact that these systems are not in place today. If this policy were in place, the state would be on the hook for paying for a student who masters, say, 20 half-semester courses in a given year, rather than a more conventional 12 or 14. How will states deal with this fiscal uncertainty? Holding back students seems like a poor choice, as does punishing schools that can educate students faster with less revenue.

And what if a student masters the high school curriculum by the time she is 15, as many students undoubtedly could? Does she go to college? Does she take time off? Or does she stay in high school with her friends but take college courses? If so, who pays?

Suggesting that a road map document could tackle such complexity isn’t fair. But a glimpse into the exciting— and uncertain—future presented by Digital Learning Now! does raise many legitimate questions. That’s no reason to delay implementing its recommendations though; innovation is never perfect right out of the box. Iteration in practice is critical. With the “Roadmap” coming on the heels of Khan’s conference presentation, surely some in the audience wondered whether innovations yet to come might even clear away many of the familiar roadblocks.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Eight Tools for Charter School Entrepreneurs

School EntrepreneursCharter school quality varies substantially from state to state, school to school. Nevertheless, the charter approach continues to hold promise as a potent catalyst for innovation, including empowering parents and teachers and catalyzing district school reform.

At its core, strategic management for charter schools involves achieving alignment among three core elements: the mission, operations, and stakeholder support.

When these elements are aligned, charter schools can achieve greatness. Unfortunately, most organizations—charters are no exception—operate in a state of misalignment due to conflicts over mission, inadequate capacity, lack of support, or some combination of the three.

The goal of achieving alignment and fit between the three elements should be the singular managerial obsession of charter entrepreneurs. All significant decisions and actions should be judged by whether they advance or retard alignment in a school. Decisions about these actions should be made using three conditions: the action should be valuable, advance the school’s mission, and be feasible. The feasibility of the chosen course is dependent both on adequate operational capacity to execute the idea and that it be supported by key stakeholders.

Beyond achieving alignment, charters need to adopt better managing strategic tools. We offer eight such tools and frameworks that any charter can use. In helping children achieve their potential, charter entrepreneurs may believe they are too hurried and pressured to focus on strategic management. We believe it is precisely because they operate under pressure, and in a domain where the stakes are so high, that they must devote time and energy to strategy building.

1. Logic models

This tool clarifies assumptions regarding how a school can reach its intended impact by defining in simple and causal form the necessary inputs, essential activities, expected outputs, and planned outcomes. When significant decisions are framed provocatively by logic modeling, questions often arise like: how tight is the model?; how much of what happens between inputs and impact is a function of unknown, uncontrollable factors in the external environment?; and how much is attributable to an organization’s programs and work?

2. Performance scorecards

A performance measurement system provides information and guidance about the school’s direction. Tools like dashboards and scorecards reduce the number of metrics to a manageable group that can be the focus of the leader’s—and board’s—consistent attention. A well-executed scorecard shows how the organization is doing in the areas of educational achievement, financial management, human resource management, and quality management.

3. Leadership theory framework

Charter leaders may be tempted to use authority to resolve conflicts. But a less technical and more adaptive approach to leadership, emphasizing the common search for a solution, may be more effective. In many instances, charter leaders must attend to conflicting visions, interpretations, and agendas within their schools and weave them together into a coherent and compelling vision. This is the work of a charter school leader.

4. Program portfolio analysis

Charter schools are complex amalgamations of programs, projects, and initiatives. It’s useful to develop a matrix to classify these efforts according to their financial and social return. Doing so can bring forward initiatives within the school’s portfolio that are core and financially viable while also pinpointing those that aren’t mission relevant or revenue positive.

5. Scaling frameworks

Scale is achieved through different strategies, including financial strength, on-site program expansion, program comprehensiveness, and multi-site replication. This last approach often captures the imagination of charter entrepreneurs. A key replicating tension is between model fidelity and quality local leadership that may want to adapt the model. A compromise is possible, which allows for both core consistency across sites and local control to meet community needs. Scaling frameworks enable schools to attract high-quality local leaders who place their distinctive stamp on the school.

6. SWOT analysis

One longstanding tool for gathering good information about what is going on around and inside the school is SWOT analysis. It also looks beyond organizational horizon, identifying threats that disrupt organizational progress and opportunities to be seized. SWOT also has a retrospective quality, because it looks at strengths and weaknesses evidenced from what the organization has accomplished. Through SWOT, charter leaders can engage boards in the important exercise of risk assessment and management, also setting the stage for an informed planning process.

7. Stakeholder analysis

A key step in navigating stakeholder environment categorizes the school’s parties using a tool emphasizing relative power, legitimacy, and urgency. Effective stakeholder management distinguishes between dormant, discretionary, demanding, dominant, dangerous, dependent, and definitive stakeholders. While it’s tempting to assert the egalitarian position that all stakeholders have equal standing, such an approach is disaster when trying to keep a charter heading in the right direction.

8. Customer service surveys

To focus improvement efforts, charter entrepreneurs need reliable data on how well the school meets the needs of key customers. Unlike retail store customers who buy and use the good or service, the education buyer is almost always a public agency or private donor while the end user is a family. This makes tracking customer service far more challenging. It requires regular data collection from families about their school experience and a clear method for assessing how the school is doing in its patron’s eyes. Family satisfaction is a leading indicator for many things, including fundraising success, charter renewal, and teaching morale. Measuring and managing customer satisfaction on a regular basis is critical.


This article was originally posted at http://ping.fm/FH4oe

$2 Million Competition Seeks Ideas to Transform Learning

As President Obama called for new efforts to reimagine and improve education in science and math, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced a $2 million open competition for ideas to transform learning using digital media. The competition seeks designers, inventors, entrepreneurs, researchers, and others to build digital media experiences – the learning labs of the 21st Century – that help young people interact, share, build, tinker, and explore in new and innovative ways. Supported by a grant to the University of California at Irvine, the competition was planned and announced in partnership with National Lab Day, a movement to revitalize science, technology, engineering and math in schools that was highlighted at a White House event today.


Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), in cooperation with the Entertainment Software Association and the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, will team with MacArthur to support Game Changers, a new component of the competition. Game Changers will provide awards for the creation of new game experiences using PlayStation’s popular video game, LittleBigPlanet™. SCEA will also donate 1000 PlayStation®3 (PS3™) systems and copies of the LittleBigPlanet™ game to libraries and community-based organizations in low-income communities.


“Lifting American students from the middle to the top of the pack in STEM achievement over the next decade will not be attained by government alone,” said President Obama. “I applaud the substantial commitments made today by the leaders of companies, universities, foundations, non-profits and organizations representing millions of scientists, engineers, and teachers from across the country.”


“MacArthur is pleased to team with Sony and National Lab Day to encourage the next generation of innovators to focus on science, technology, engineering and math. Digital media, including games, are the learning labs of the future and this open competition encourages people to consider creative new ways to use digital media to create learning environments that are engaging, immersive and participatory,” said Connie Yowell, MacArthur’s Director of Education. “This competition will help ensure that the new and highly engaging approaches to science, technology, engineering, and math find their way into schools, libraries, museums, and other spaces for learning.”


“This challenge truly embodies what’s possible when you place the learning tools and the opportunity into the hands of creative and imaginative minds,” said Jack Tretton, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America. “When leveraging the innovative technology of LittleBigPlanet and the PS3 system, both advanced and novice gamers have access to an open canvas to learn, build, and explore entirely new kinds of gaming experiences. They can also share their creations with millions of gamers around the world to play, rate, and review their levels. There’s no better training ground for anyone interested in digital media.”


The competition is designed to promote “participatory learning,” the notion that young people often learn best through sharing and involvement. Participatory learning, as defined by the competition, is a form of learning connected to individual interests and passions, inherently social in nature, and occurring during hands-on, creative activities. Successful learning labs and games will exploit all of these elements. Awards will be made in two categories: 21st Century Learning Lab Designers and Game Changers.


The competition includes three rounds of submissions, with public comment at each stage. The public will also be invited to judge the final candidates, including the selection of People’s Choice awards in each category.


“Learning labs are digital media projects that promote hands-on participatory learning,” said Cathy Davidson, Duke University Professor and David Theo Goldberg, Director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute, HASTAC co-founders. “They promote learning together with others, by interactively doing, trying, sometimes failing. When we think of laboratories, the image of beakers and microscopes come to mind, but learning labs help us reimagine and expand our understanding of learning across all domains of knowledge.”


Competition winners will join an existing community of 36 awardees from 2007 and 2008, including a video blogging project for young women in Mumbai, India; a cutting-edge mobile phone application that lets children conduct digital wildlife spotting and share that information with friends; a project that leverages low-cost laptops to help indigenous children in Chiapas, Mexico learn by producing and sharing their own media creations; and an online platform for 200 classrooms around the world that allows young people to monitor, analyze, and share information about the declining global fish population.


The competition is funded by a MacArthur grant to the University of California, Irvine, and is administered by the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC), a virtual network of learning institutions. The competition is part of MacArthur’s digital media and learning initiative, which is designed to help determine how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize and participate in civic life. Answers are critical to education and other social institutions that must meet the needs of this and future generations.


Information about the competition, which will begin officially on December 14, 2009, is available at www.dmlcompetition.net.

Monday, January 16, 2012

10 Things Chemical Plant Operators Need to Know About OSHA's New Chem NEP

OSHA announced the launch of its PSM National Emphasis Program for chemical facilities (Chem NEP). The new Chem NEP expands nationwide a previous 2009 Pilot Chemical Facilities Process Safety Management NEP, which had covered only a few OSHA regions, and established policies and procedures for inspecting workplaces covered by the PSM Standard.

The inspection process under the newChem NEPincludes detailed questions designed to gather facts related to PSM requirements and verification that employers' written PSM programs are adequately implemented in the field. The intent of the NEP is to conduct focused inspections at facilities randomly selected from a list of worksites likely to have covered processes. The director of OSHA, Dr. David Michaels, announced at the launch of this new NEP that during "the pilot Chemical NEP, [OSHA] found many of the same safety-related problems that were uncovered during our NEP for the refinery industry … As a result, [OSHA is] expanding the enforcement program to a national level to increase awareness of these dangers so that employers will more effectively prevent the release of highly hazardous chemicals."
Below are the 10 most important things chemical plant operators need to know about the new nationwide Chem NEP:

1.It is effective immediately and has no expiration.
Programmed inspections will begin immediately in all regions. Unlike the Refinery PSM NEP and the Pilot Chem NEP, this directive does not include an expiration date.

2.It expands the Chem NEP nationwide.
Whereas the pilot NEP involved only a few select regions under federal OSHA’s jurisdiction, the new nationwide Chem NEP applies to all OSHA regions. And unlike the pilot chem and refinery NEPs, states arerequiredto participate in this emphasis program. If the approved state OSHA plan already has some version of a Chem NEP or wants to implement its own version (within 60 days), the state plan must demonstrate to federal OSHA that its program is at least as effective. Otherwise, the states must adopt this directive.

3.Targets for Chem NEP inspections include:
The types of workplaces inspected under the new Chem NEP are similar to the pilot. OSHA will assemble a master list for each region based on employers who: (1) submitted Program 3 Risk Management Plans to EPA; (2) have a NAICS code for Explosives Manufacturing; (3) appear in OSHA’s enforcement database as having been cited in the past for PSM-related issues; and (4) are known to the area office as operating a PSM-covered process. Any workplaces selected for inspection under OSHA’s Site-Specific Targeting Plan, which also happen to operate a PSM-covered process, will be inspected under the Chem NEP directive. Likewise, inspections arising from an employee complaint, referral or incident involving a PSM issue also will be conducted under the Chem NEP directive. Complaints, referrals and incidents unrelated to PSM may still result in an inspection under this directive at the area director’s discretion.

VPP- or SHARP-approved facilities are partially exempt. (They are exempt from programmed inspections, but may be subject to inspection under the Chem NEP upon an employee complaint, incident or referral related to PSM.)

4.The selection of unit(s) includes:
OSHA will attempt to identify “the most hazardous process” as the selected unit(s) for inspection under the Chem NEP. The selection of the unit(s) will be based on the following:
· Quantity of chemicals in the process;
· Age of the process unit;
· Number of workers and/or contractors present;
· Incident and near-miss reports and other history;
· Input from the union or operators;
· Ongoing maintenance activities; and
· 119(o) Compliance Audit findings.

5.Inspection scheduling expectations include:
Every OSHA area office across the country is expected to complete 3-5 programmed Chem NEP inspections per year. The sites selected for inspections will consist of approximately 25 percent workplaces that use ammonia refrigeration and 75 percent all other workplaces with a PSM coverage process.

6.It emphasizes implementation over documentation.
Like the pilot NEP, compliance officers will be focused on implementation of PSM elements in the field rather than relying solely on the quality of the written PSM program.

7.It features dynamic list questions.
Like the pilot NEP, the dynamic list-based evaluation under the Chem NEP is a mandatory gap analysis formatted in a series of questions to facilitate evaluation of compliance with various elements of the PSM standard. The list of questions rotates periodically and will not be publicly disclosed. The questions are accompanied by guidance for CSHOs as to what documents to request, interview topics and questions to cover, and potential citations to issue. Each dynamic list includes 10-15 primary and 5 secondary questions. Questions are designed to elicit a “Yes,” “No” or “N/A” determination of PSM compliance, and any “No” will normally result in a citation.

8.The following documents and presentations will be requested:
During a Chem NEP inspection, employers will be asked to produce the following documents:
· List of PSM-covered processes;
· List of units and maximum intended inventories;
· Three years of OSHA 300 logs for employer and contractors, and contract employee injury logs;
· Summary description of PSM program;
· PFDs, P&IDs, Plot Plans and electrical classification drawings for the selected unit(s);
· Description of process and safety systems, safe upper and lower operating limits and design codes and standards for the selected unit(s);
· The initial PHA and the most recent Redo or Revalidation for the selected unit(s) (including PHA reports and worksheets, recommendations and action items and schedule for addressing and completing recommendations and action items); and
· PSM incident reports for the selected unit(s).

Before a walkaround inspection, OSHA will request the following presentations:
· Overview of the company’s PSM Program and how it is implemented;
· Identify personnel responsible for implementing each PSM element;
· Description of records used to verify compliance; and
· Process description for the selected unit(s).

9.A single issue will yield multiple citation items.
As we reported about the refinery NEP, OSHA was turning a single issue into multiple violations. The agency has memorialized this practice in the Chem NEP directive. The directive advises CSHOs that a single valve change, for example, could implement 11 different PSM elements, and each should be considered for individual citation items.

10.Abatement verification and documentation is now mandatory.
Under the pilot NEP, some citations required employers to simply certify that abatement had been completed. Under the new Chem NEP, however, abatement verification and documentation is now mandatory. The NEP also directs CSHOs to review past PSM-related citations issued to the same employer going back 6 years, and identify potential failures to abate and possibly repeat and willful violations.