Wednesday, 24 December 2014

How to make online education social

by Robin Scott


The advent of online education has been a wonderful gift for both educators and students. It has allowed teachers to reach out to students in other parts of the globe and has allowed students to form a study group without actually being together physically. Online education is permitting students who live in a rural or isolated area to attend classes from the comfort of their own home and it has added to home school curriculums across America. However, there is one drawback to all of this innovative technology: The lack of socialization.

Most problems have a solution if the creative thinkers of the world spend time to search for it. What is the solution to this particular drawback. There are several ways that online education can become more social and more closely mimic the benefits of an in-person education.

1. Anthropomorphize the Technology

When something becomes anthropomorphic it means that an inanimate object is given human or animal characteristics. Why not make the computer more human? We are used to using our computers as a tool to simply type in information, but with the advent of decent voice technology and interactive capabilities we can start applying human characteristics to online educational materials. Students who are taking an entire class online should set up an area in their home office and view it as a virtual classroom. The use of multiple monitors can help make their educational experiences more connected. For instance, a student can have their primary laptop or monitor serve as a “person” that is used to speak to people via Skype or use chat technology such as Skype chat or Google Hangouts. The second monitor can be used as a traditional computer in order to do online research or type out research papers or notes. Some students may wish to use a third monitor or a handheld device for additional academic needs.

2. Include Real People in the Educational Environment

Students who are enrolled in online educational programs should look for classmates who are located nearby. Although driving to meet in person for anything other than a social activity is becoming less popular, the formation of an in-person study group once a week can add greatly to online education. Students can still use all of the innovative technology that they would use in their home classroom as most of it is now compact and portable.

3. Connect With People Who You Would Only Be Able to Reach Using a Machine

Many people feel that as technology improves our socialization is declining; however, there are some people that we simply wouldn’t be able to meet or collaborate with without this new technology. 20 years ago it would have been nearly impossible for a classroom full of third-graders to speak to students in another country. Today, it is fairly easy for a classroom in the US to speak to a classroom in China. The only obstacle left is dealing with different time zones. In a way, online education is making us more social or at least more varied in our socialization.

Although it doesn’t make a lot of sense to communicate with someone using technology if they happen to be sitting across the room, it makes a ton of sense for a student in Sweden to speak to a student in Italy and teach each other Swedish and Italian.

In Short

If online education is starting to feel flat and impersonal, it’s important for students and teachers to communicate what’s working and what’s not. Any grand innovation is fluid; meaning that it is a work in progress, and the more feedback the creators of this technology receive the more it can be improved. Also, users of this technology who come up with ways of making online education more social should feel free to share them with the world so that everyone can benefit.

Robyn Scott is a private tutor with TutorNerds LLC in Irvine, CA. She has a BA from the University of California, Irvine and a MA from the University of Southampton, UK.

Connected learning, by Teachthought

The Learning And Design Principles Of Connected Learning, by

“For more than a century, educators have strived to customize education to the learner. Connected Learning leverages the advances of the digital age to make that dream a reality — connecting academics to interests, learners to inspiring peers and mentors, and educational goals to the higher order skills the new economy rewards.

Six principles (below) define it and allow every young person to experience learning that is social, participatory, interest-driven and relevant to the opportunities of our time.

6 Design Principles Of Connected Learning

1. Interest-Powered

Interests foster the drive to gain knowledge and expertise. Research has repeatedly shown that when the topic is personally interesting and relevant, learners achieve much higher-order learning outcomes. Connected learning views interests and passions that are developed in a social context as essential elements.

2. Production Centered

Connected learning prizes the learning that comes from actively producing, creating, experimenting and designing because it promotes skills and dispositions for lifelong learning and for making meaningful contributions to today’s rapidly changing work and social conditions.

3. Peer-Supported

Connected learning thrives in a socially meaningful and knowledge-rich ecology of ongoing participation, self-expression and recognition. In their everyday exchanges with peers and friends, young people fluidly contribute, share and give feedback. Powered with possibilities made available by today’s social media, this peer culture can produce learning that’s engaging and powerful.

4. Shared Purpose

Today’s social media and web-based communities provide unprecedented opportunities for caring adults, teachers, parents, learners and their peers to share interests and contribute to a common purpose. The potential of cross-generational learning and connection unfolds when centered on common goals.

5. Academically-Oriented

Connected learning recognizes the importance of academic success for intellectual growth and as an avenue towards economic and political opportunity. When academic studies and institutions draw from and connect to young people’s peer culture, communities and interest-driven pursuits, learners flourish and realize their true potential.

6. Openly-Networked

Connected learning environments link learning in school, home and community because learners achieve best when their learning is reinforced and supported in multiple settings. Online platforms can make learning resources abundant, accessible and visible across all learner settings.”

Monday, 24 November 2014

10 Major technology trends in education, by C. Riedel. A Speak Up survey

We have a first look at the results from the latest Speak Up survey, which polled hundreds of thousands of teachers, students, administrators, parents and community members about technology trends in education.

According to the latest data, video for homework is on the rise; mobile computing is "beyond the tipping point"; and most kids don't use traditional computers to connect to the Internet at home. 

1. Personal Access to Mobile Devices

According to the 2013 results, students overwhelmingly have access to personal mobile devices. “If there was any doubt in our mind that we were beyond the tipping point in terms of kids carrying a computer in their pocket, backpack or purse,” she said, “we’re there.”

Specifically, said Evans, 89 percent of high schools students have access to Internet-connected smart phones, while 50 percent of students in grades 3 through 5 have access to the same type of devices. High school student access to tablets tops out at 50 percent and laptops come in at 60 percent. In addition to personal access, the survey found about a third of students have access to a device (typically laptops or tablets) in their school.

2. Internet Connectivity

For Evans, this was an interesting set of  statistics showing the ways students generally connect to the Internet when at home. According to the study, 64 percent of students surveyed identify 3G- or 4G-enabled devices as their primary means of connecting to the Internet, with another 23 percent saying they connect through an Internet-enabled TV or Wii console. When asked why traditional broadband access wasn’t their primary means of connectivity, students said there was less contention for access with other members of the family through these non-traditional devices.

3. Use of Video for Classwork and Homework

Video is another tool that has been on the rise in recent years. While her presentation focused on students, Evans noted that 46 percent of teachers are using video in in the classroom.

One-third of students are accessing video online — through their own initiative — to help with their homework. Evans called this the “Khan Academy effect.” Additionally, 23 percent of students are accessing video created by their teachers.

4. Mobile Devices for Schoolwork

According to the 2013 results, students are leveraging mobile devices both to be more efficient in their day-to-day tasks and to transform their own learning processes.

Sixty percent of students are using mobile devices for anytime research, 43 percent for educational games and 40 percent for collaboration with their peers. Thirty-three percent of students surveyed use mobile devices for reminders and alerts related to their academic lives, 24 percent for taking photos of their assignments, and 18 percent for in-class polling.

Surprisingly, said Evans, 12 percent of the students responding said they use mobile devices to text questions to their instructors while in the classroom. “I do wonder,” she added, “how many of the teachers are responding to those texts.”

5. Using Different Tools for Different Tasks

Evans admitted, with the proliferation of so many tools, it isn’t surprising students are designing “best-fit” solutions for their very specific needs.

Rather than using one or even a few platforms for various tasks, students are increasingly savvy about taking advantage of the benefits of the tools available.

“We find them using video, social media and cell phones for communications; they use e-readers for reading texts and articles; they write, take notes and do research on laptops. But,” she paused, “where does that leave tablets?”

According to Evans, tablets were the second or third choice device for completing many of the academic tasks students are faced with.

“They like the devices,” she noted, “but they are more focused on using the right tool for the task at hand,” and many times tablets don’t seem to fit.

6. Paying Attention to the Digital Footprint

Digital footprint was a new research area for the 2013 survey and, according to Evans, showed some interesting results. Sixty-four percent of high school students responding admitted to being careful about the things they post online; 39 percent said they advise friends about the content they post, with 32 percent saying they stopped interacting with friends who post inappropriate content online. Finally, 44 percent of high school students said they believe a positive digital profile is an important part of their future.

7. An increased Interest in Online Learning

This year’s Speak Up found that students who have not taken an online course are increasingly interested in the opportunity, citing a desire to have more control over their learning and believing that they will get more support from an online teacher.

Math was the subject student were most interested in taking online, with Foreign language coming in second and science a distant third.

8. Gaming is Growing, and the Gender Gap is Closed

Another interesting area for Evans was student gaming. This year’s results showed 60 percent of students using laptops as a gaming device. Cell phones and game consoles tied with 54 percent use, while tablets clocked in at 44 percent.

Of particular note is students’ interest in taking gaming technology and applying it to learning difficult concepts, as well as their interest in using games as a way to explore career opportunities. Evans also noted no gender difference in students’ interest in games, with younger girls actually showing more gaming activity than their male counterparts.

9. Social Media in Schools

Another set of questions revolved around the place of social media in the school. When showing the data for text messaging, networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) and chat rooms, it was clear the the student expectations for the use of these technologies far outpaced those of administrators, teachers and parents. Administrators scored the highest among the non-student groups represented.

According to Evans, the data identify “a clear disconnect in terms of the value proposition” of these tools. “Today’s students,” she added, “are looking at social media not as a separate thing that you do occasionally but as a pervasive part of the way they are living their lives outside of school — one they want to connect with their lives inside the classroom.”

10. What Devices Belong in 'The Ultimate School?'

The final piece of data Evans shared focused on students’ ranking of the relative importance of devices in their classroom experience. Fifty-six percent of students said laptops were most important; 51 percent chose digital readers; and 48 percent selected tablets.

“This is still an evolving area,” said Evans and one She said Project Tomorrow plans to keep and eye on in the coming years. Something of interest, she added, that may not come as a surprise is that 62 percent of students want to bring their own devices.

Full results of the 2013 Speak Up will be released to survey participants Feb. 5 and will be released publicly April 8 when Evans shares the report with Congress.


About the Author

Chris Riedel is a freelance writer based in Illinois. He can be reached here

Thursday, 13 November 2014

How I have implemented the Flipped Mastery Model, by Tiziana Saponaro

As an early adopter of the Flipped Classroom model, I realized there was a next step in this methodology evolution. I created multimedia, interactive modules for each learning objective, posted them on my website and assigned them as homework.This freed up precious classtime to work directly with students on projects or other engaging learning activities. As Bergmann and Sams said "Technology has freed up the teachers to individualize the learning for each student". (Bergmann, Sams 2012).
Now I want to make the best use of my face-to-face class time and I'm ready to venture further, by adopting the Flipped Mastery Model.

In this article I'm going to discuss the following topics:

- What is mastery learning and what is the Flipped Mastery Model
- Why I decided to implement a Flipped Mastery Model
- How I'm implementing the Flipped Mastery Model

What is Mastery Learning?
The basic idea of mastery learning is for students to learn a series of objectives at their own pace. Instead of all students working on the same topics at the same time, all of them work toward predetermined objectives.The key components of mastery learning are:

Students work either in small groups or individually at an appropriate pace.
The teacher gauges understanding and formatively assesses students
Students demonstrate mastery of objectives on summative assessments. For students who do not master a given objective, remediation is provided.

The advantages of this methodology are:

- improvement in student achievement
- increased cooperation among students
- increased student self-assurance
- students receiving a second chance at demonstrating mastery of a given objective.

What is a Flipped Mastery Classroom?
A Flipped Mastery Classroom combines the principles of mastery learning with modern technology to create an engaging learning environment in which
students work asynchronously through content and move on only when they have mastered the content. Basically, all students work on different activities at different times. This is what you might see walking into my classroom:

- students working in groups
- some watching videos on their personal devices
- some doing a quiz on the whiteboard
- some studying individually
- some taking assessments on either a school computer or their own personal device.
- some working one-on-one
- I move around the room interacting with students.
- if a student struggles on any one specific objective and needs to review, I work with them at the SMART board
- if a student struggles to demonstrate mastery of any objectives on the summative assessments, I provide the student with individualized remediation or an alternative form of assessment. Creating multiple versions of each summative assessment for students helps them demonstrate their mastery of each learning objective in a particular unit of study.

Why Implement the Flipped Mastery Model?
In their book "Flipped Learning. Gateway to student engagement", Bergmann and Sams comment "The Flipped Mastery Model has completely transformed our classrooms, how we think about education, and how we interact with our students". According to Bergmann and Sams, the Flipped Mastery:

teaches students to take responsibility for their own learning
creates a way to easily personalize and differentiate the classroom
makes learning the center of the classroom
gives students instant feedback and reduces teacher paperwork
provides opportunities for remediation
allows for multiple means of learning content
provides multiple chances for demonstrating understanding
changes the role of the teacher
increases face-to-face time with the teacher
ensures that all students are involved

How I implemented the Flipped-Mastery Model
As the first few weeks of school are essential for establishing policies and routines, I started the school year introducing the students to the Flipped Mastery Model. With the help of a student I created a video in which I explained the model and my former students gave advice about how they took responsibilty for their learning.
I taught students how to watch and interact with video lectures. I explained that watching an instructional video is not like watching a movie or TV show. To train students, I took the first few days of school to watch a few videos together, I paused the videos to highlight key points and asked questions to check understanding. I encouraged students to take notes, asking them to write down key points and summarize what they had learned.
I helped students learn to manage their own time and pace their schedule
I encouraged straight A kids to help their struggling classmates. As the focus of the classroom is no longer on the teacher, but rather on the learning, students have to realize that learning is the goal and turn to each other for help.
I organized students into learning groups, encouraging interaction, collaboration, and exploration.


Bergmann, Sams: "Flipped Learning. Gateway to student engagement", July 2014

Bergmann, Sams: "Flip your classroom. Reach every student in every class every day, July 2012

Blended Learning,

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Flipped Classroom 2.0: Competency Learning with Videos

Flipped Classroom 2.0: Competency Learning With Videos

By Katrina Schwartz

The flipped classroom model generated a lot of excitement initially, but more recently some educators — even those who were initial advocates — have expressed disillusionment with the idea of assigning students to watch instructional videos at home and work on problem solving and practice in class. Biggest criticisms: watching videos of lectures wasn’t all that revolutionary, that it perpetuated bad teaching and raised questions about equal access to digital technology.

Now flipped classroom may have reached equilibrium, neither loved nor hated, just another potential tool for teachers — if done well. “You never want to get stuck in a rut and keep doing the same thing over and over,” said Aaron Sams, a former high school chemistry teacher turned consultant who helped pioneer flipped classroom learning in an edWeb webinar. “The flipped classroom is not about the video,” said Jonathan Bergmann, Sams’ fellow teacher who helped fine tune and improve a flipped classroom strategy. “It’s about the active engaged stuff you can do in your class.”

“There is no place for them to hide. They had to converse with me and tell me when they were ready to be assessed on something.”

The two teachers admit when they started flipping their classrooms they put everything into video form. Now, they’ve taken a step back and realized some things shouldn’t be in lecture form, and therefore shouldn’t be videos either. Instead, the two teachers have embraced what they call mastery learning, with an emphasis on students taking control of their own learning. Instructional videos are an optional part of a bigger move towards asynchronous learning.

“The best use of class time is to meet the individual needs of each learner, not driving the class with predetermined curriculum,” Sams said. So he and Bergmann decided to make watching the video lectures optional. The videos are available, but if students felt they could learn it better in some other way, they’re encouraged to do what works best for them.

[RELATED READING: Can TED Talks Really Work in the Classroom?]

“One of the most important skills that any student can learn is where to go for information and resources,” Sams said. Instead of following a rigid curriculum, the two teachers decided on the key learning objectives of the class — the things they felt their students really needed to know –and structured the class around those. Then they offered students a menu of resources that included instructional video, some sort of practice and links to the corresponding section of a textbook. The teachers became resources and helped provide benchmarks to keep students on track.

The educators say this method is working for them because they’ve decided to make their classrooms mastery based, whereby “a student gets to the end of some learning unit and must pass whatever kind of assessment you have before he can move on,” Sams said — very much like competency-based learning. “There is no place for them to hide. They had to converse with me and tell me when they were ready to be assessed on something,” Sams said. When he taught in a more traditional way, Sams admitted there were students he hardly knew.


Working with a mastery-based model means students are not all learning the same thing at the same time. Bergmann said the first five minutes of class are essential to setting the class into productive motion by quickly assessing where students are and directing them to various stations around the room. ”Your class looks like organized chaos,” Bergmann said. “It’s very powerful.”

 “The flipped classroom is not about the video. It’s about the active engaged stuff you can do in your class.”

Students are scattered around the room learning a topic in their own way and teachers are walking around talking to students, answering questions and checking in on their progress. There’s no assigned homework, unless a student feels he needs to do some extra work to understand a concept. “The kids who are going to get most of my time are the kids who need it,” said Sams. “It’s the kids who are struggling or the kids who need me hovering over their shoulder.”

Sams and Bergmann soon realized that effective flipped classrooms didn’t include videos of science demonstrations. That’s the most exciting part of science and kids should get to see it up close. Since students were moving at different paces, Sams and Bergmann had to demonstrate the same thing multiple times. “We did demos for just a handful of students,” said Sams. “It was a far more intimate environment so we could converse with kids about what was going on.”

Disciplinary issues also diminished significantly. “When I was the guy up front, all the attention was supposed to be on me and it was really easy for a disruptive kid to pull the attention to himself,” said Sams. With everyone working on their own projects, one kid has much less power to disrupt.


One of the most challenging parts of a messy, asynchronous classroom is that kids aren’t all ready to be assessed at the same time, and when they do take a test, they might not pass. Sams’ and Bergmann’s chemistry classes have formative assessments, constant checking in and talking about work with students on a daily basis.

The two teachers also spent two years building up a store of test questions in Moodle, a free learning management system that randomly generates tests. Those who fail the test can take another to prove mastery.

It took a lot of work to build up the system that now works smoothly and the process revealed challenges in the mastery model. “One of the dark sides of mastery is the demoralizing effect,” Bergmann said. He had students that he knew understood the material because of his daily work with them, but who couldn’t pass the tests. That’s a frustrating and demotivating experience for a student.

Sams and Bergmann turned to the Universal Design for Learning, a set of curriculum principles that maintains students need more than one way to learn information and more than one way to demonstrate knowledge. Following the second principle, the two teachers allowed their students to show they understood the material any way they wanted. Sams said he received songs, welding projects and even hand-drawn graphic novels. He admits those didn’t help the students take standardized tests, but they showed chemistry understanding, his main goal.

If this all sounds messy, it is. Sams and Bergmann are the first to admit that there are challenges, especially around grading. But, they’ve discovered a way to take flipped learning to another level, offering it as one option in a smorgasbord of instructional materials and letting students have the autonomy to choose what works best for them. Kids got behind, but the teachers checked their progress along the way and structured the course so that the most necessary information was in the first four sections, with nice-to-know material in the fifth section.

“We would rather our kids actually know 80 percent of the content, instead of being exposed to 100 percent of the content,” said Bergmann.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Thursday, 3 July 2014


ISTE Standards for Students are the standards for evaluating the skills and knowledge students need to learn effectively and live productively in an increasingly global and digital world.
Simply being able to use technology is no longer enough. Today's students need to be able to use technology to analyze, learn and explore. Digital age skills are vital for preparing students to work, live and contribute to the social and civic fabric of their community
ISTE Standards for Teachers are the standards for evaluating the skills and knowledge educators need to teach, work and learn in an increasingly connected global and digital society. 
As technology integration continues to increase in our society, it is paramount that teachers possess the skills and behaviors of digital age professionals. Moving forward, teachers must become comfortable being co-learners with their students and colleagues around the world.

Friday, 20 June 2014