The 3rd Narrative of School Reform with Will Richardson

will richardson“It’s no longer about what WE want students to do. We need to ask ourselves ‘How do we support kids in what THEY want to do?'”

Will Richardson is a parent of two teen-agers, and has spent the last dozen years developing an international reputation as a leading thinker and writer about the intersection of social online learning networks and education. Will has authored four books, most recently Why School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere (Kindle Single)
– which was published by TED books and based on his most recent TEDx talk in Melbourne, Australia.

“We need to do inquiry based, student centered, technology rich learning in an effort to prepare kids to go out into the real world so they can continually learn, connect and create with other people.”


Noteworthy moments you should pay attention to:

4:05 – A teacher’s role will be more difficult in the short term due to limitations from the idea of “Doing school better”. However, this is a very exciting moment for learning. It’s a time to use technology for both teachers and students to develop new learning patterns.

6:40 – We’re looking at the wrong measures in school!

7:20 – Teachers need to become more connected learners. 2 big questions that should be addressed: “How do you connect to other people?” and “How do you create with computer?”. There’s a lot of emphasis here on learning how to join the right communities, and provide value to these learning communities.

9:45 – Twitter is your launching pad for this movement towards connected learning.

10:05 – Jackie discusses her point of view on teacher agency. There are a lot of choices out there, but also a lot of restrictions. What can teachers do? Stand up for your freedom as an educator, and become a connected learner!

10:50 – According to Will these are some good, hard questions that you should ask of your communities so you can make your own classroom better.

14:03 – The third narrative of school reform: Focus on “How do we support kids in what they want to do? We learn by doing things that we care about, and that we want to learn more about… We need to do inquiry based, student centered, technology rich learning in an effort to prepare kids to go out into the real world so they can continually learn and continually connect and create with other people.”

Mentions of Technology

– Twitter 

– and

You can reach Will Richardson on Twitter @willrich45 and on his website.
Here is Will’s TedX Talk in Australia

Education Quote of the Day – Maria Montessori


“Scientific observation has established that education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.

The task of the teacher becomes that of preparing a series of motives of cultural activity, spread over a specially prepared environment, and then refraining from obtrusive interference.” – Maria Montessori

Read more here


Education Reform with Jackie Gerstein

“Time is precious, and school is stealing time away from our students.”

Our guest today is Jackie Gerstein, Boise State Professor and founder of User Generated Education. She has also produced over three dozen Slideshare presentations outlining her views on the student driven classroom. In this talk, Jackie highlights the role of the teacher in the new age classroom, as well as her summary of education 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0.

Her MOTTO is:

“I don’t do teaching for a living, I live teaching as my doing, and technology has AMPLIFIED my passion.”


Noteworthy moments you should pay attention to:

6:05 – Summary of education 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0.

8:40 – A teacher’s role is no longer to provide information or content. The role of a new age teacher to provide expertise in the process.

14:50 – Become a connected educator, get on Twitter!

10:05 – Jackie discusses her point of view on teacher agency. There are a lot of choices out there, but also a lot of restrictions. What can teachers do? Stand up for your freedom as an educator, and become a connected learner!

17:00 – All of your students should be blogging, creating and engaging in the learning process.

Mentions of Technology

Twitter – It’s a teacher’s responsibility to be a connected educator, which is the first step towards student driven learning. and – Free blogging platform for students.

Minecraft – A social building game.

You can reach Jackie Gerstein on Twitter @jackiegerstein and on her website.
I’m a big fan of her Slideshare on education 3.0 as seen below.

What’s working and not working in the technology classroom with Harry DiFrancesco – Educators & Influencers

Is technology part of your teaching strategy? Are you just dipping your toe in the water, or diving in head first and pioneering change at your school? We’ll hear from our guest, Harry DiFrancesco about his experience with technology in the classroom.

1646Harry Difrancesco graduated from Cornell in 2012 and is in the 2nd year of his Teach For America program. He teaches 9-11th grade Social Studies and Foreign Language at the High Tech Early College in Denver, Colorado.

Watch the interview to see how a fellow teacher is using technology to Augment his classroom.


Noteworthy moments you should pay attention to:

6:43 – We hear about the future role of the teacher in education.

10:35 – Harry brings up a slightly different model of running a school, where both administrators and teachers play the role of educators.  The goal of this seems to be to flatten some of the vertical structure that has been built into schools over time.

14:09 – Don’t you worry! The future is not a student drone, receiving content from a machine. Engagement, interaction and more are only augmented by technology in the classroom and teachers play a key role in this model.

Mentions of Technology

– Chrome Books – 1-to-1 in the case of Harry’s school

Apex Learning for foreign languages

Poll Everywhere – Great way to do mini quizzes, to do Do Nows, etc.  Easy to use, kids love it, valuable data can come of it.

Google Fusion Tables – Tip here is, when building them, use data from the CIA factbook as that is where google took most of its data from.
Newsela –  It offers texts on different non-fiction topics at the level of each reader and will even embed some comprehension quizzes within it.

Education and the Innovator’s Dilemma

The history of innovation is rarely linear. Most technologies tell a story of tangled interests, accidental discoveries, and circuitous implementation.

Do you know the story about Sony’s disruption of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA)? In 1947, Bell Labs invented the transistor, a potential replacement for vacuum tubes, which enabled the operation of smaller, less power-hungry devices. This transistor, however, could not handle the power of larger popular electronic devices, such as tabletop radios, box televisions and early digital computers. RCA quickly labelled this as a technical limitation of a fledgling technology, one which money could overcome, spending over $1 billion in research and development to find applications for the transistor in the market that currently existed.

Sony saw an opportunity for something different. In 1955, the company took the technology in a lateral direction, releasing the first battery-powered, pocket transistor radio. The tiny radio produced a horribly static sound and batteries were quick to die. What was important, however, was the discovery of a brand new market. Sony’s new device caught on quickly with teenagers who couldn’t afford table-top radios and didn’t mind the crackling sound of their pocket radio as long as they could take it with them to the beach. Eventually, recognizing the value in portability, Sony made a logical expansion on the technology by releasing the first portable transistor television. They captured a market whose need and budget was left unaddressed by the legacy device – from this foothold, Sony began dominating the portable electronics market, wiping away vacuum-tube companies along with RCA.
Disruptive innovations, according to Clayton Christensen, author of “Innovator’s Dilemma,” often hit the market appearing inferior to the legacy product, keeping incumbents initially ignorant. The rookie technology is brushed off as too cheap, inefficient, or unprofitable, compared to the proven, high-end, legacy issue. With little direct competition to force risky decisions, these disruptive innovators make calculated improvements on their product based on market demands, until at some point it intersects with the quality of the incumbent’s product. And the innovator has innovated with a purpose.

It’s not productive to call education a stodgy old man. Pedagogy may appear static at times, but a systemic shift in the way students are taught is imminent. You may have heard of the Flipped Classroom model in the media; you may know a middle-schooler who does her homework on a tablet; you might have taken your own stab at a Codecademy or Udemy course — the fact is, education disruption is already taking place.

Most alternative teaching is still considered eccentric and uncommon today, while legacy methods — live lectures with little discussion; problem-sets assigned for home — are tried, true, predictable. But we’re finally seeing nontraditional teaching methods such as Blended Learning, or the Flipped Classroom, address the needs of schools whose conventional systems are falling short. A round of applause goes out to Clintondale High, the nation’s first high school to integrate Blended Learning in its entirety , a champion of change. What we’re witnessing here is a first mover in a disruptive model. And not unlike Sony’s first portable transistor radio, the first iteration is far from perfect; but, for educators at Clintondale, the challenge of introducing a new system is well worth the 17 point bump in their college acceptance rate.

Christensen applies his study of innovation to the commercial space, asking when and how an industry might experience a true paradigm shift. This might come in the form of a ubiquitous piece of technology, a systemic overhaul, or both. What might he see in education? It’s an industry that has been progressing slowly for a long time, with a new set of technologies reaching more people in one year than in the last 50 years. Christensen even predicts that 50% of all high school classes will be taught online by 2019.

Did any of you readers attend high school online? I asked a room with over 200 adults this question just last week. Not a single person raised their hand. 50% is a very, very big number. That’s 7 million people taking high school classes online. That’s equivalent to the entire population of New York.
Now, granted, Clayton’s claim is only a prediction, based on observable patterns. But if you look around at today’s device-hungry youth, the Internet- and tech-native generation, he might just be onto something.

So what does this mean for you?

“Accept Innovation With Open Arms”


Explore your opportunities. Challenge your administrators to let you try new things. Teaching is all about learning, both for you and the student. Don’t feel constrained by your textbooks or curriculum, but rather try to adopt new methods that complement them. You know your goals — the path you take to get to your goal is entirely up to you. After all, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: teaching is an art.
Administrators. It’s happening now. The only thing certain is, if you’re not innovating, you’re losing popularity – and fast. You don’t necessarily need to pioneer change, but don’t be the force that holds your teachers back. You’ve hired great people and allowed them to set goals. Now let them go out and be great — if they come to you with new tools and ideas, and a burning look in their eye…maybe they’re onto something. Don’t grab hold of every innovation in sight, but listen and work with your teachers to move forward. Before you know it, you’ll be in the news like Clintondale high school. Small sacrifice for a massive potential reward.
According to Christensen, your best bet isn’t layering technology on top of your current education practices, but instead spinning off a few classes where technology is the primary driver of education. This is where true innovation can occur, and you can test the success on a small sample audience.

Here are some stats after just one year of flipping the classroom in the 9th grade at Clintondale.

Reduction in Failure
English: 33%
Math: 31%
Science: 22%
Social Studies: 19%

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You stodgy old man you. Don’t you worry. You’re trying your best, and we appreciate that. Set the goals, hand out money like a rich uncle and look the other way until the dust settles. — Too much money stifles innovation. Yes, you read that correctly. The seemingly inferior technologies will prevail as dominant when the time comes. BUT you can make sure you’re focusing your investments on legitimizing the use of technologies and online education for students. If it’s definitely going to happen, then it should happen sooner rather than later. The lean methodology suggests that the faster we can get solutions out there, the faster we can iterate an awesome and comprehensive solution. Don’t try to plan too much, because the first solutions won’t be the ones that last. History has proven that investment in infrastructure is key, education is a keystone infrastructure piece.

Students (Everyone).

Today, more people are graduating from college than at any point in our country’s history (there’s also a lot more people). We’re seeing a true popularization of education – no longer is the upper class privy to information and higher education. More so than at any point in recent history, everyone and anyone can be a student. It’s our responsibility as the world’s students to remain curious, to continue searching for the best methods for learning and teaching our children.
The change is happening now, and I hope you wake-up everyday as excited as I am.

This article was originally released on Insights Wired.


Closing out 2013 – Ten Most Popular Education Videos This Year

As we wave goodbye to 2013 and welcome 2014 with open arms, let’s take a look at the top educational videos on YouTube this year.

How did we judge “Top Videos? By views of course!

This video “Which Came First – The Chicken or the Egg” by AsapSCIENCE has seen over 13 million views.

What have we learned from these?

First of all, video is an extremely powerful medium that can educate millions of people for free!
And, video is most powerful when kept short. 70% of the videos listed here are less than 6 minutes long! Let that be a lesson to us all.

Have a Happy New Year and enjoy the other 9 most popular videos this year:


The Flipped Classroom Model on StudySoup (Infographic)

In a world where education is being turned on it’s head, StudySoup strives to keep you ahead of the curve with awesome functionality for your students. We’re excited to inform you that teachers around the US are now using StudySoup to provide the Flipped Classroom for their students. What does that even mean? Allow us to explain here:

Think about this – giving lectures in class isn’t the best use of your time, right? Some students are taking notes, some are playing games, and others are chatting. What if you could record your lecture, and send students home to watch the lecture? Now students can watch your lecture on their own time, rewind if they missed something or play games without distracting peers. Better yet, you won’t have to repeat your exact lecture semester after semester. Instead, you can use classroom time assign work, answer questions and engage your students at a much higher and personal level.

Where does StudySoup come in? You need a delivery vehicle for you lectures, readings and homework. We provide the complete delivery platform for your materials, and you can even make some money selling your course! Just take 2 minutes to upload your videos, text and powerpoint presentation, set a price (or make it free) – and Enjoy 🙂

Here is an awesome infographic about the Flipped Classroom from our friends at Knewton Learning.

Flipped Classroom

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media


The End of Education’s Industrial Age

Education_gearsLet’s briefly cover the history of American industrialization. Its relevant, I promise.

In the wake of the the industrial revolution, ideas about optimizing the manufacturing process had begun to surface in an effort to increase productivity. One promising tactic was to condition specialized employees by assigning each a specific role in the manufacturing chain. The result? Efficiencies shot through the roof.

Naturally, schooling was a logical starting place to begin grooming a competent – and “skilled” – workforce. American public education was just being popularized and centralized, making it possible for previously disenfranchised children to get an education. To accommodate the influx of students, schools optimized the learning process in industrial fashion: run them through information, assess performance with standardized evaluations, and certainly don’t let questions and individual curiosities stray from the course. Classrooms soon reflected the assembly lines their students were being prepared for.

The workplace has evolved, yet education is still frozen in the industrial mindset – it has become clear that this is simply not how we learn. “Learning happens in the minds and souls,” says Sir Ken Robinson in an interview from The Guardian, “not in the databases of multiple-choice tests.” The education system born from the industrial revolution dehumanizes the learning process. But teaching, as we’ve come to see, is not an exercise in engineering the mind – it’s an art. An effective teacher is not one with a quick turn around, but one who compels a variety of students to connect and engage.

Flipping the Classroom to Humanize the Student

The flipped classroom affords educators an opportunity to directly engage with students. With readings and lectures taking place at home, class time is now reserved for real pedagogy, which, Robinson stresses, is the “heart and soul of teaching”: connecting with students’ strengths and limitations, making the content relevant and interesting to them, and inspiring genuine curiosity.

My company, StudySoup, recognizes that technology is vital to re-imagining the next generation of educators. In spite of the growing number of Open Educational Resources (OER) available today, teachers still spend the lionshare of their time planning courses, choosing content, and regurgitating it to their class. Only if there’s time left in their day can they directly engage with students, answer questions, and lead collaborative excervices.

Bridging the gap between digital content and pedagogy can be accomplished with appropriate technology. The task of collecting, creating, and delivering content can be made more efficient with smart software and a network of educators. This leaves more time for teachers to do what cannot be automated – teach.

Putting Technology to The Test

The flipped classroom is a simple and intriguing idea with a plethora of persuasive arguments The talk is good, but can it walk the walk? Occasionally, industries in distress will impulsively grasp at trending solutions and technologies. But no theory (or technology, for that matter) is ever perfected on paper – you must implement, gather data, improve, and repeat ad infinitum.

Recently, Russell Mumper, a Vice Dean at the University of North Carolina’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy, conducted a flipped classroom study on a first-year pharm class over the course of three years. Though admittedly a loosely controlled experiment, it is the first glimpse at the possible impact of a flipped classroom. The findings, published in Academic Medicine and The American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, and reported in The Atlantic in a critical look by Robinson Meyer, showed that students in a flipped classed demonstrated improved performance.

Meyer is right to mention the study was funded by an ed tech company, and therefore may come with some bias; but researchers agree that the findings demonstrate some real value in the flipped classroom. Teachers could gauge student engagement in real time while doing problem sets during class, and gave students more compelling reading to do at home. One researcher mentioned the possibility that improved grades came simply from students doing more work. Another suggested that, since students were working on problems in class, they were indeed working harder, but spending less time procrastinating and cramming.

At the very least, starting this conversation will help guide technologists to figure out what the true problems are and how to better solve them. We’re keeping close with teachers we work with to be sure they shape the technology we’re building – after all, teaching the next generation is not a science of numbers, but an art.

Note: This piece was originally released on EdReach.


Lose the Pen

Create Monetize-Graphic

Note: This piece was originally released on EdTechDigest.

If I tell you there’s a practical problem with education content, you might think: “Ah yes, another piece about the price of textbooks and the tyranny of MOOCs.” You’re not wrong. But these are only symptoms of a larger, digital revolution that’s taking place in education today.

As the industry pivots to digital, innovators and educators are changing the way we think about course materials altogether. How do faculty decide what materials to use to teach their students? With rampant accessibility to information online, who has the best textbooks and materials for my students? How do I know the information I’m giving them is actually useful?

Print isn’t the whole problem

When Seth Godin, legend of marketing and business disruption complains, people listen. A rant on textbooks is expected from any student, but Seth’s clearly defines the problems and why the market is ripe for disruption. Here’s my takeaway of his three main problems:

Price – No brainer; just plain too expensive.

Effectiveness – Students rarely rave about a captivating textbook.

Utility – While education is dynamic, textbooks are static, heirlooms of a pre-digital world.

His article (read it here), written almost four years ago, holds true to this day. The textbook industry has such a stronghold on the market that materials have become fairly stagnant. And as Big Publishers scramble to provide students with digital solutions, they manage only to put lipstick on a pig and leave much to be desired. What the vast majority of publishers call digital content today is a basic scan, a Frankenstein digital copy of a pre-digital relic. Albeit cheaper, this option is sold under a veil of greater utility, with little variety. This will not be a successful business model for our big publishing companies down the road.  As the vast treasures of the Internet’s free content spoil students, companies in the education publishing field must adapt to survive.

The latest push of edtech products is addressing Seth’s three main points head on. This means not only providing low-cost, high(-er) value solutions to all corners of the world, but partnering with educators to bring education content up to 21st-century standards. So what will surface when the clock strikes and textbooks are forever a thing of the past like the once omnipresent Encyclopedia Britannica? I don’t know. But as a recent grad, tech geek and entrepreneur — I can venture a guess.

Customizable Course Content

In due revolutionary process, the opportunity to innovate has opened the education publishing industry wide open. Over the last 20 years, many teachers and professors have turned away from traditional textbooks, and instead have begun creating custom content in the form of course readers. Already, a variety of companies like Boundless and Flatworld Knowledge aim to provide affordable and new-age replacements to current course materials, helping educators handpick the right material for the right course. You can create content with video and audio, link it to OER (Open Education Resources, more on those soon), and have it delivered to any person, on any device, anywhere in the world! If I sound excited, it’s because I am! We’re not talking about MOOCs here, because not everyone wants to take an online course. We are talking about the evolution of course materials for your classroom.

Guy Kawasaki, Chief Evangelist at Apple, co-founder of Garage Ventures, and award-winning author, predicted the end of traditional publishers — and the time has come for education publishers as well. The latest tools allow for social interaction and collaboration, while providing a platform for research, note taking and essay writing. Naturally, custom course content will continue to proliferate, and as more educators learn to leverage technology, any product that facilitates this type of educational value will likely grow.

Another likely future alluded to by Guy Kawasaki is — dare I even mention it? Self-publishing. You know exactly what your students need for your course and, if your students need it, then somebody else’s students need it, too! Not only will this encourage collaboration between educators, but there is a glaring market opportunity as well. Self-publishing reduces publishing fees and gives educators the tools to make relevant and engaging course materials that students desperately need.

Course Content in Real-Time

So in an effort to find a solution in Seth Godin’s rants, and make Guy Kawasaki’s dream come true, I urge you to go out there and explore the possibilities. Once you’ve explored, don’t hesitate to create or re-create content for your students. You can make education content dynamic and reflexive. What we are witnessing is the textbook transforming from static page to real-time education tool.

The tools are available and the market is still in its seed stages. For innovators, this means your opportunity to get picked up by millions of students worldwide is very real. Just keep your prices low, your quality high, and crowds will follow, we like to say. The final challenge is the educator’s onus — teachers and professors need to feel compelled to customize these materials with interactive features, add videos, edit materials when they see fit, and encourage students to try something new. Ultimately, that’s a better model for education content, and from where I’m coming, I support that model.

Let me know what you think on Twitter @SievaKozinsky