Are K-12 data systems ready for AI?

As educators who love technology, we can barely contain our enthusiasm for the potential applications of artificial intelligence (AI). But AI requires massive amounts of data, so before jumping on the AI bandwagon we need to:

  • reflect on the kinds of data that would make teaching more effective and improve learning outcomes;
  • consider the systems that will allow us to collect and manage the data; and
  • create processes to share and analyze the data.

Most districts do not yet have the foundation to make the leap to AI (other than what is already embedded in the apps and programs they’re currently using). Schools still exhibit a lack of maturity around data collection that should make us cautious about AI. There are also algorithmic bias and equity issues that need to be resolved before we move to wide-scale AI adoption. For most districts, spending money on AI over the next three to five years would be money down the drain. The ecosystems to support AI implementation are simply not yet in place in most schools and districts.

5 essential questions to test your district’s AI readiness…Read More

Want to be a stronger digital leader?

In a rapidly changing world, educators have been forced to self-examine and come to terms with approaches that are inefficient and irrelevant–from outmoded ways of setting up classrooms to equating school success solely on standardized metrics. Innovation and transformation in schools can’t happen unless we tackle entrenched practices and mindsets in bold and specific ways.

How can we best harness the positive aspects of technology to improve student learning and the schools we work in?

As a first step, we need to disrupt the status quo that’s embedded in the education system by developing new ways of looking at things that transform the world. We create permanent change only by identifying and communicating what shifts need to occur as well as illustrating how effective these approaches are at improving education. When we apply principals of efficacy to the Pillars of Digital Leadership, we’re well on our way toward integrating technology with confidence that learning will be transformed.…Read More

Taking on teacher attrition

We once believed that teacher effectiveness dramatically increased for the first three to five years on the job and then plateaued. But recent research suggests that substantial growth in effectiveness can be seen for the first 12 years on the job, and likely longer. This suggests that teacher quality develops over time and that experience can influence effectiveness.
We also know that students who have highly effective teachers for three years in a row can score 50 percentile points higher on achievement tests than students who have less effective teachers three years in a row.

But academic gains are just one of the outcomes of high teacher effectiveness. Research showed that as teachers gained experience, their students’ absenteeism rates declined. Experienced teachers tend to be better at classroom management and motivating students, resulting in fewer conduct issues and higher attendance.

And then there are soft skills, such as the ability to collaborate and problem solve, think creatively, and be empathetic. These skills—which have been linked to higher employment, greater job satisfaction, and lower crime rates—are developed, not taught, and teachers are a huge part of that development.…Read More

Why schools need a knowledge base

When I have a problem with my iPad, I look to Google. Google is my worldwide knowledge base for fixing my toilet, unsticking my iPad, and figuring out the origin of that clunk sound my car started making. For every technology and almost every mechanical thing in my life, I can go to a website or run a general Google search to figure out how to fix it—or at least diagnose the problem.

Everything, that is, except how to get onto the wi-fi in my school district.

Technology is delightful and enriching. It connects students across the globe and invites them to explore the wonders of the world. But the ugly truth is that behind all this technology is a frantic, very overwhelmed IT team without the platform to manage the thousands of transactions asked of it each day. These IT people fully understand and support the promise of technology in teaching probably more than anyone. But when it comes to managing 75,000 K-12 students with brand new school-issued iPads or their own devices, there is often no knowledge base or even an adequate tech-support system in place to adequately assist them.…Read More

5 big ideas for education innovation in 2018

Last year saw a flurry of activity in support of personalized learning, new school designs, and new approaches to K-12 education policy. Looking ahead, education innovators have their work cut out for them in 2018. Some of this work requires asking hard questions. Some requires acknowledging that there’s an elephant in the room. And some requires looking beyond our current conversation to where the next waves of innovation stand to emerge. Here are five ways I’m hoping the K-12 education innovation agenda moves forward in 2018:

(1) Unpack “just-in-time supports.”

One of the core elements of a high-quality competency-based model is students receiving just-in-time supports. These same supports seem to be implied when advocates of personalized learning call for tailored learning experiences and pathways that resemble those of high-touch tutoring models. Yet we often lack a clear, systematic way to talk about what those supports are and aren’t. What does learning science tell us about the best approaches? In which instances should these supports result from students seeking out help themselves? And when should educators scaffold them in? Put broadly, how can we infuse the notion of “just-in-time supports” with an understanding of what works, for which students, in which circumstances? I worry that without getting deep into these instructional innovations and beginning to categorize them in clear ways, structural innovations to rethink time and unlock personalized, competency-based progressions will risk falling flat. This year I’ll be keeping an eye on efforts like TLA’s Practices portfolio and Digital Promise’s Learner Positioning Systems for clearer answers.…Read More

This major city knows the secret to improving student performance

A focus on high-quality principals in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) could serve as a best-practice model for districts across the nation, according to data indicating improved student performance and principal retention.

Over the past four years, as the number of strong principals in Chicago’s public schools has increased, so have student outcomes. District leaders have identified increases in both reading and math scores for elementary school students and have seen significant improvements in freshman on-track and graduation rates at the high school level.

“Principals are truly the instructional leaders of our schools and one of the key factors behind the improvements we’re seeing for all of Chicago’s public school students–improvements that are outpacing national averages,” said Dr. Janice Jackson, acting CEO of CPS, during a panel discussion on the district’s positive results. “We know that cultivating and retaining strong leaders is essential to our progress.”…Read More

What? Test scores won’t predict academic growth over time

For years, parents and policymakers have looked to test scores to gauge the effectiveness of school districts and teachers. New research from Stanford Graduate School of Education Professor Sean Reardon provides a different measure: students’ academic progress over a period of years.

Reardon examined test scores for students in third through eighth grade at 11,000 school districts across the country. Third-grade test scores, he found–whether they were higher or lower than the national average–did not correlate to students’ academic growth through elementary and middle school. In fact, growth rates in many low-income districts outpaced those in which students enjoyed greater access to learning opportunities in early childhood.

“There are many relatively high-poverty school districts where students appear to be learning at a faster rate than kids in other, less poor, districts,” says Reardon, who holds an endowed professorship in Poverty and Inequality in Education. “Poverty clearly does not determine the quality of a school system.”…Read More

25 education trends for 2018

Year after year, educators and those invested in education love to speculate about what will take off in the near future. And as far as riveting news goes, nothing quite peaks the interest like new trends that have the potential to fundamentally change learning.

In almost all of the commentary from both educators and industry, the mention of AR and VR for 2018’s big trends were ubiquitous. So much so, we could only include just a few AR/VR pieces here in our inaugural “eSchool Media’s Annual Trends Report,” which compiles some of the most practical, forward-looking predictions from educators and industry on what will trend for the upcoming year in both K-12 and higher education.

In this straight-forward report, eSchool Media discusses what to expect, overall, in 2018; how 2017 compares to 2018 for both K-12 and higher ed; and predictions from educators and industry on both K-12 and higher ed trends for the new year.…Read More

#4: 5 ways teachers can improve student learning based on current brain research

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on May 24th of this year, was our #4 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

The brain is an experience-dependent organ. From our very earliest days, the brain begins to map itself to our world as we experience it through our senses. The mapping is vague and fuzzy at first, like a blurred photograph or an un-tuned piano. However, the more we interact with the world, the more well-defined our brain maps become until they are fine-tuned and differentiated. But each person’s map will vary, with some sensory experiences more distinct than others depending on the unique experiences and the clarity and frequency of the sensations he or she has experienced.

Educators can positively influence students’ learning by understanding how the brain is shaped by their early experiences—and how it can be rewired and reorganized to work more quickly and efficiently.…Read More