Jumping in and we BLEND

I guess it’s time for me to jump in the fray ; 


So much has happened to me in the last year, and before I go on to weigh in on controversial, progressive ideas….in full disclosure, I am a Blended Learning Coordinator.  I am currently watching a debate entitled “More Clicks, Fewer Bricks: The Lecture Hall is Obsolete”.  (VIDEO : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICWe68IPEmg ;  AUDIO : http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/national-public-radio/npr-intelligence-squared-podcast/episode/33357371?refid=asi_eml&autoplay=true ).  Those of you who know me can guess which of these panelists I would try to hang out with.  😉  Before I get going, I was not even aware of this website ; it reminds me of a sort of TED Talks with a debate spin.  Thank you Betsy Parrish for sending this my way (npr actually aired it).  –> Here is the main site: http://intelligencesquaredus.org/debates


The argument is primarily how to use the amazingly progressive online learning culture that is being developed.  There is a lot of experimentation going on, and the question being raised is defining the purpose of online education, and whether it is a suitable replacement for a physical space and a “real” teacher.  I think the answer is….sometimes.

In pure numbers, MOOCs clearly have the ability to reach more students in an economically reasonable way.  As far as the consumer is concerned, it is a complete win….they are FREE!!!! ( www.coursera.org , www.edx.org ) .  I always feel bad when debating these issues with those folks who are very skeptical, conservative, and nervous about the experimental way and speed in which life and learning are changing.  I feel bad because everything will work it’s way out ; if we keep an open mind toward growth we will get the best use out of all of these tools.  And it does take some time to let superfluity and tangents weed themselves out.  That being said, I appreciate that there is a level of healthy skepticism.  << What we don’t need is ignorance >>

I’m not going to say any more on my viewpoints ; here are some highlights from the debate, and some sites to check out:


“The more the university embraces the resources of the world, and is open to students, whether they are their students or not, the more vibrant the physical elements of the university will become, and the less the university will continue to compete in areas like who has the better climbing gym.” – Ben Nelson (CEO Minerva)


“The blend of the online with some of the in-person soft skills and so on…can be substantially better than anything we have on campus today.”  Anant Agarwal (CEO of EdX)


“At MIT 2 out of 3 students today, compared to virtually zero two years ago, are now doing blended online learning.  MIT has moved into this in a big way, blending the classroom with a lot of online technology, so 2800 out of 4500 students at MIT are now using the EdX platform on campus in a blended model.”  Anant Agarwal (CEO Edx)


“Professor at Harvard University Eric Misure, who teaches Physics, wanted to know how much his students retained from his physics classes.  So he surveyed them 2 years after the end of the course.  You know what their retention rate was?  Ten Percent.  The question isn’t as much whether online education is effective, it’s that is can’t possibly be any worse than the existing model!”  – Ben Nelson (CEO Minerva)


“This was a moment that we created together, in real time, in the same room, face to face, with energy you could feel.  With energy between people that you could feel.  And that changed us all.” Rebecca Schuman (columnist for SLATE and German Professor @ U of Missouri)


MINERVA – Ben Nelson is the CEO



Just check out when Brian Greene (Columbia) put out:


I am very intrigued to explore this site.


Also, look at what Salman Khan has put out as far as exposing us to entrepreneurs.  Here is his interview with Elon Musk:



Jonathan Cole (Columbia Professor) pointed out Sebastian Thrun’s statement, found here:



EdX Demo site which really serves as an introduction to online learning in general (at least on their site).








Teacher, Parent, Coach, Community, CEO and the Renaissance

For those of us in the business of knowledge attainment and retention, I’ll start with a few questions:

What is the role of a teacher?  How free is a teacher to actually teach?  How much do we trust that someone other than ourselves can teach our kids?  Is it better to let go, or to micromanage?

I really love summer school.  It reminds me of the Google corporation, and those places that set aside time for the faculty to just be together and dream up new ideas and ways to do things.  If nothing else, this keeps things fresh, and gives us an avenue of exploration, which leads to devotion (to our jobs).  We are nevertheless more important and involved in our work.  We also find ourselves all over the curriculum at varied levels.  In that sense, it’s a lot like parenting, because you’re likely to have kids of different ages at different levels.  (Yes, I realize there are a million ways it is different from parenting….).  How must we accommodate all of the different needs and interests?  It’s hard to do it ourselves, but it’s also hard to let someone else do it…

What do we do with parenting?  We help them develop a core set of morals and then we send them off to camps and sign them up for teams and various activities.  This allows them to discover their interests and build their own networks in life.  Of course, we oversee all of this, but like those Google employers, we understand that we cannot force nature; we need to allow it.  Just as the teacher cannot abandon the common core, our families aren’t very likely to abandon all sense of custom.  So this produces an alignment problem…how do we allow the freedom of discovery AND meet the Common Quota?

I believe it can be done, but only with flexibility.  Very few things in the universe are completely static.  Here’s a popular adage:  “The only thing constant is change.” Very many things are cyclical and/or wavelike.  This, I believe includes the learning process.

Here is a graphic example:


Notice the wavelike pattern.   Read More…

Gamification and Summer EYP

We have rolled out a badge/award system in the Kearsarge Summer EYP this year (www.classbadges.com).  We have started the system with http://www.khanacademy.org.  The system is to award  Bronze, Silver, and Gold medals each day based on the points achieved in Khan Academy each day.  Khan is a fantastic equalizer because no matter what level you are at, you are competitive with everyone else regardless of their starting point.  We also award Bronze, Silver, and Gold homework medals.  

  • 0-15 min = Bronze
  • 15-30 min = Silver
  • 30+ min = Gold

Everyday the students come in and tell us that they have done some homework, we check their activity and award them accordingly:




Notice the DARK BLUE boxes represent time spent OUTSIDE of normal schooling hours.  Each bar represents a different student.


HERE is the chart the students come in and see each day ; this is what MOTIVATES them!



Each student has his own digital trophy case, and here you can see how we award/track each student’s achievements:



We have started this with Math, but are developing new badges to allow each kid to really shine based on their own varied successes…..

Summer EYP 2013

First Day of summer EYP.  

Hooked all of the students into Khan Academy and issuing Badges via classbadges.com as gamifiyed motivation.

Laurie Pre told me about Video Not.es which seems fantastic.  It will allow us to track the videos the students watch, and students will annotate the videos/take notes as they watch.  As the teacher, I can pinpoint the points in the video that the student didn’t understand.  Plus, I can collect good notes on the topic this way.

I also had a conversation with Administration, playing the “Devil’s Advocate” and asking the question, ‘how is a MOOC any better at delivering information than a real-life teacher?’  The obvious answer is that the video is a supposed better quality lecture (and this is only in the BEST-CASE scenario). The big sacrifice, however is REAL INTERACTION.  My answer was that the FORUMS are a huge benefit, where students communicate and help each other.

There are several additional benefits to a MOOC, but this particular conversation got me thinking that a MOOC, at least at the level of development they are currently at, is not precisely what the public sector needs.  The real key is connecting and sharing information between all parts of the organism.

Dr. Wormold has explored this extensively, and I hope to learn based on his wisdom of the subject.

Thus far, here is what I value as important in BLENDED LEARNING ENVIRONMENT:

  • Students CHOOSE where they learn from
  • Students build on previous lessons/years
  • Students use heavy peer -peer interaction
  • Students receive more one-on-one time with teachers
  • Students ADD and CREATE the syllabus/lesson plan along with the teacher
  • Flexibility in terms of pacing and readiness for concepts
  • Enhancing the PHYSICAL presence
  • The PATH should be absolutely CLEAR, and ORGANIC


At the moment, I am utilizing Pearltrees with my students.  They can team up and add lessons that they find useful.  This is great because it constantly builds up a database of useful lessons and allows kids to customize their learning.  The challenge here is to make sure the amassing of these lessons/widgets is not overwhelming.  I was considering a rating system for this, but currently there aren’t enough to warrant this yet.  Laurie has also suggested using diigo.


This has two parts.  Students should be able to build on what they have previously learned. Digitally, we are capable of creating a system that permeates his/her different teachers/classes and focuses on the BIG PICTURE GOAL. 

The second part of this, is that the student sees the lessons and notes of students from previous years in the topic.  They can add to/change notes to all of the students that came before them, and leave a piece of themselves for the students who come after.



I believe that the student teaching/learning through shared experience with your peers is key.  A blended model should thrive on this concept.  If run properly, students will organically form study groups.  They do this in person (which I have experienced with the Algebra class) and through fantastic forums (such as Piazza, which I have experienced in my own MOOCs –> coursera , edX ).  Anyone in-district should be able to participate/add to these forums. Combining this with google hangouts (analogous to skyping in groups) you can create a unique experience for everyone.  They can also see/share entire projects and notes.



Although this seems like it wouldn’t be the case, this should actually happen more often.  Having students view the lesson material on their own enables them to come in prepared to work on projects/assignments as needed.  This allows more time for the instructor to move around the classroom/LAB and visit with students personally.


Since students are the ones seeking out lessons/ways of solving material, they actually shape the course itself, and because they can go at their proper pace, they also determine the level of material given.  This will shape the scope of the course and the environment of the lab.


Students are absent, classes get cancelled or shortened.  The best way to deal with this is to give students as many tools as possible where they can continue their classwork outside of the physical classroom.  Ideally you would want to equip them with ability to form their own study groups.  Its all about showing them how to choose the best lake, and teaching them to fish…and then teaching others how to fish…not selling them whatever is stocked in your local pond.



None of the above is a replacement for a physical classroom.  It only is meant to supplement the material and empower the students and teachers.  The relationship that face to face interactions develop is irreplaceable, much the reason why video games haven’t been able to replace board games…actually board game sales have skyrocketed largely because video games seem to have been dropping the ball in that area.


I think the biggest challenge will be a CLEAR path the student must make.  This is difficult because this path may and should change as the learner changes and their proclivities follow.  The path must grow along with the student.  How does one allow for exploration withing the context of standardization???


That is the $64,000 Question.

Hybrid Course

I am taking a “How to” Hybrid Development course.  One of the requirements is actually to start a blog.  This is fantastic because it will allow me to document the experience and look back on all my threads as time passes…….


This course is given by canvas.net

In rather unfortunate news, edX.edge will not be available to non ConsortiumX users.  This means that if y our university has not partnered with edX, you cannot create a course with them.  This baffles me slightly,  but nonetheless I will have to be using Google Course Builder or Coursera.


In development, edX is a brilliant platform, but they have lagged behind others to get it out there.  OpenCourseWare famouly spearheaded the movement, but I wouldn’t say that has been edX’s current position.  I would consider them more of followers at this point, who have brilliantly re-engineered the machine.  I would say, however humbly, that I think they are making a mistake by not making edX Studio a completely open endeavor.  So basically….only prestigious universities can use their system.  I said it today…..I understand Harvard may do something like this, but MIT?   What about high schools, middle schools, public education and the common core?