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Vision 2020

Did you ever think what education is going to look like in the next decade? Will you still be teaching like you are today or will teaching and learning be drastically different. We are starting to see a shift in education that could change the landscape of education in the future. Online Education has taken off both at the university and K12 level. We are seeing the delivery of educational content via the web. This has allowed students to have access to courses they could not take before. I happen to teach a high school online course using APEX learning. APEX is a company that started out providing AP courses to small rural districts around the country. Like Florida Virtual School and other providers, APEX has made its way into mainstream high school settings. It is estimated that by 2019, over fifty percent of all high school students will be taking at least one online class. This is an amazing stat when you compare it to levels at the beginning of the 21st century.

It is difficult to imagine a classroom in 2020 without looking at some of the changes that have taken place over the past few years in online education. First, learning management systems have gotten much better, tools such as Moodle  help instructors  build, maintain, and offer quality online courses. I have already mentioned online providers such as Florida Virtual School; they have steadily made their way into the mainstream of K12 learning. What we are seeing is the development of online education at the university and K12 level becoming part of the norm. Administrators and instructors no longer see online as something only for the student who needs remedial credits, but identify that the structure of online learning can benefit all students.

Another factor in the development of online education comes out of the development of technology. Prices for computers and tablets have steadily declined, and the hardware has become really good at a very affordable price. In the near future, probably by 2020 or sooner; we may see the mass introduction of tablets and laptops in our schools. Google, Microsoft, Apple….you name the provider, they will be competing for the educational dollar with the introduction of tablets in the classroom as they replace textbooks.  Google has already introduced Chromebooks and the price of laptops keeps going lower and lower. This has made technology accessible for more and more students. These laptops can do many wonderful things when it comes to the world of education.  Students can simply use their own computers in labs at school or at home. Some have suggested that districts will offer subsidies for low income students, or publishers will provide tablets instead of textbooks. The point is that the hardware is getting cheap enough that we will eventually see a transformation in our schools. Textbooks as we know them will become obsolete and students will now have media rich capable technology at their fingertips. Mobile technology will also become more prevalent as we move forward. The IPhone and other cell phone developers are making learning truely mobile with many features that allow instructors and students to keep up with course content and collaboration.

Collaboration will be the structure of 2020 classes and we are seeing the seeds being planted for this in our classrooms today. Online is at the cutting edge of Web 2.0 technologies. Online groupware and productivity tools have greatly improved and Microsoft is not your only option anymore. Google Docs, Office 365 for Education , and Zoho are powerful tools that promote collaboration, allow storage and presentation of every type of content that might be of use to students and teachers. All of this information can be made private or public and is just a web browser away. Google Docs has particularly made things easy for instructors and students. We are seeing all of these productivity tools become easier and easier to use in collaboration.

There are many things that instructors can now use to make collaboration and research amongst students much easier in both the online and regular classroom setting. Wikis, blogs, webquests, and other Web 2.0 tools are helping instructors/ students create, collaborate, and share information and learning. Whether using education-specific web tools like edublogs or leveraging more general services like Wikispaces, the sheer numbers of communication and collaboration tools are easy enough for every educator, student, and parent to use. Virtual classrooms and social networks have helped to close the distance in distance learning. Everything from Ning ,WizIQ, Google, and  Facebook  allows for interactions and information sharing and are available inexpensively to educators. Although, many districts have had to really look at how these social networks are being used and come up with acceptable use policies for these social networks specifically beyond what they already have in place.  We are also seeing the introduction of some of these tools in packages provided to districts by companies such as PowerSchool. PowerSchool is all inclusive: attendance, grading, teacher web pages, blogs, all in one package that school districts buy for use throughout the district.

Of course there is much more going on in education as I believe we are in a “big shift”. Charter schools centered on technology and online education are spreading around the country. States such as Idaho, Florida, and Louisiana have developed plans centered on offering online or virtual schools. So, what will 2020 look like, well things that we consider cutting edge should become the norm in 2020. Online education should continue to grow at the K12 level, probably to the point that high schools will have blended learning and online classes. We may see the structure of the school day change as a result. Could we see schedules in our high schools similar to what we now see in college. I believe at the high school level, students will shape their schedule to include in seat time along with online time. As an example, at my school (block schedule) students may want to only be on campus 2nd and 3rd period. They would fill their 1st and 4th block with an online class.

The way we teach should also change by 2020, Web 2.0 technologies that are being used in online classes should make their way into mainstream classes. Wikis, blogs, discussion boards, webquests, and other tools will be used to change classrooms from teacher-centered to student centered. This should be the goal of every school district in the country. Currently, you may have heard of the flipped classroom. In this setting students go home and access lecture materials and do their work. When they come back to school the next day the teacher than works with them on problem solving and helping them work through issues they may have. Basically, the ground work is done at home and the work phase at school, where the teacher can easily help. The classroom of the future will be media rich and push students to create, collaborate, and be more project-based.

Final Thoughts

I am going to leave this post by reminding you of something I posted in an earlier blog post:

“As most of you know, you are leading this disruption in education. You are in this class because you are using or hoping to use more Web 2.0 technology in your classroom. As an educator, you understand the value of learning and making yourself better at what you do. Some of those that we work with will resist this change, but it is in our best interest and the interest of our students to evolve and move forward. I would challenge you to find a way to lead in your school setting. You can set the pace for others to follow or you can sit back and ignore what is happening. I know that those who are in leadership positions will set those standards and have a voice. Those that sit back and resist this change will continue to struggle with reaching students and eventually will only fall out of favor with instructional leaders at the school site. This change may be slowly creeping up on you or can be coming at you full force at this point, but reality is it coming. I find this change to be positive and exciting, and for someone who has been teaching for over twenty years……refreshing. Congrats to all who have chosen to move forward and lead”!

More Resources for those who are disrupting education now!:

Big Think Blog

Edudemic

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Disruption in Education PDF

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Web Applications- Google Docs

Many students want to know about good web apps that they could use to help in their studies. Google Docs is a suite of web tools that is perfect for the task. What makes Google Docs good is it is free and supported by the innovation of Google. These tools help students to develop and share vital information easily. The biggest reason to use Google Docs is the fact it is free, unlike Microsoft. This link gives us some ideas of the benefits of Google Docs:

http://www.emergingedtech.com/2010/11/google-docs-why-teachers-and-students-should-be-using-them-for-course-work/.

The biggest advantage of using Google Docs is students can collaborate on work together. Much like a Wiki, others can edit and add information to the document. This ability for collaboration means that there are no barriers to who students can work with. They are no longer confined to their own class.

As I was researching for this post, I came across information on digital kits. This is a great idea for teachers and students and shows the advantages of using Google Docs. Basically, Google Docs allows you to keep and modify digital images for use in projects. Here is the link to an article on digital kits: http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/the_tempered_radical/2012/03/googledocs-digitalkits.html

This article gives us 50 ways to use Google Docs: http://edudemic.com/2012/04/50-little-known-ways-google-docs-can-help-in-education/

Google Docs is a great for teachers and students, and this web application is valuable for anyone in education who wants to collaborate and create content. Google has established a suite of web tools that are easy to use and share. If you are looking for a productive tool for education, look no further than Google Docs.

No Paper-What?

You may have heard of paperless classes, or for some you have already been in one. Online classes are a great example of a paperless class. Everything in the class is done through the web. Teachers post assignments and students submit assignments via the web. Well, could this work in a brick and motar setting? The answer is yes, and it is already happening. If you haven’t gone paperless, you should think about the possibilities of what it can do for the educator and the student.

Advantages of the paperless class is student work does not have to die at the teacher’s desk or end up buried in a backpack. In these classes students can continue to build on their work and collaborate with others. Students create eportfolio’s that go with them. Imagine that if you are an 11th grade english teacher, you can now actually see the work of your student from 10th grade english instead of asking the teacher about what he or she remembers about the student. Since work is on the web, it can truely be on the web for others to see and use and build on. A wiki is a great example of how a student can have work to share with others and learn from them too.

The role of the teacher actually becomes more engaging as learning centers on trying to find true continuous mastery for students. Teachers can foster collaboration and sharing amongst students, classes, and other outside sources. Projects can be continued beyond one class, they can continue over time. Students in a science class could work on project continually from their freshman to senior year. Think of the potential of paperless before you say no. This type of learning benefits students and the academic environment. Once students leave school, they can take their eportfolio with them.

Measurement in learning can truly center on mastery and not just taking a test to prove mastery. Teachers can actually see improvement of students when using an eportfolio vs. seperate assignments being turned in over time. This can be measured. This type of measurement is more beneficial to students and actually shows improvement. Testing is not the best way to measure student improvement. This can be very empowering for students and teachers. It is good for education.

Paperless is great for building learning networks for students. Going back to the idea of Wikis, students in a paperless class have the advantage of sharing and collaborating because everything is generated for the web. Students learn how to build on their work and share with others in this pursuit. This is what education is all about.

The Big Shift is Happening- Are you shifting or not moving at all?

One of the major shifts happening in the world of Educational Technology is the impact it is having on the traditional classroom. In the past, students have had to master a vast amount of information and show their mastery by passing a test. This does not and should not be the case. Shift happens, and instructors can use Web 2.0 technologies to demand mastery of subjects that resemble things that students will actually do in the real world (Big Shift #9, Richardson 2010). How do you do this? Well, how about creating Project Based Learning around Web 2.0 technologies.

Although, I have been a believer in Project Based Learning; I have recently expanded this to include more Web 2.0 technologies. The advantage of this is two-fold, not only to have students acquire and master content; but also have those students develop skills that they will actually use in their careers. Students need to produce products not just take tests. It is not unusual in my class to have students produce PowerPoints, Prezi’s, Popplets, etc. They have to use Web 2.0 tools to contribute to Wiki’s, blogs, and discussion boards.

My views prior to taking a class on Web 2.0 technologies was that they should be used to enhance student experiences and the class has reinforced my thinking and reasoning behind there use. I now feel that I can be a teacher-leader at my site. This shift is happening and we all need to become familiar with the advantages of Web 2.0 and how it enhances the educational setting. I am really excited as an instructor because  I know  Web 2.0 can make my classes better.

Connectivism

It has been argued that Connectivism is not a learning theory and there is plenty of debate over Connectivism and learning theory. My colleagues have identified that they do not believe Connectivism is a learning theory in their wiki post:

http://fall12-bce-01.wikispaces.com/Group+B+6-A-1

In this post they point out that “Connectivism is defined as a learning theory based on the idea that knowledge does not rest in the head of the individual, but instead exists in the world around us”. They state that Connectivism is just a rehash of the other learning theories brought into this mordern age of the digital world.

It may well be, but it does have some very valid points. Starting with the fact that people do acquire knowledge from those people and things around us and or interaction. We often say of our kids that they need to experience things in order to understand them, the idea that making a bad decision will lead to making many correct ones as a result. We know that there are many ways to acquire knowledge. I have to agree with Siemens that the digital world changes how we learn and what and how we process information. We must look at how we teach in this digital age and adapt to help our students succeed.

As far as if Connectivsm is good for teaching practice, those against bring up the fact that school districts have not adopted these new technologies into the curriculum and teachers do not use them because they are not familiar with them. I would agree with some of this, but that does not mean that Connectivism should not be considered good teaching practice. It absolutely should be the things that we are doing not only in online courses but in the regular classroom. Web 2.0 technologies allow for some amazing tools to bring about research, connectivity, collaboration, and the use of critical thinking skills.

Finally, the argument against Connectivism states that it has a lot of potential to support students. I would agree with this statement wholly. They go on to say that if we only concentrate on digital technology, that our students will not learn how to use a dictionary, or cross-reference sources, etc.  It is our job as educators to use both technology and develop long-standing educational procedures that are important to student learning. The fact is that these tech tools actually enhance student learning and can not be ignored. We must move forward and push the envelope in education and Siemens understands that this push through what he calls Connectivism can change the landscape of how our students learn.

Skype

Making and establishing connections should be a priority for online instructors. It is our job to take the distance out of distance learning. There are many Web 2.0 tools that will allow us to do that. One such tool is Skype. Skype allows the user to connect through internet using video and audio with other Skype users. I have used Skype to stay connected to family when I have been in China. I find it amazing that I was able to see and talk to my kids when I was half way around the world. Skype is a great example of how Web 2.0 technology is helping to enhance our lives.

On the instructional side, I could see using Skype to talk with a small group of students or even to connect with a student one on one in an online class. When we talk about building a connection for online students, Skype is a tool that can definitely allow us to do this. It is always nice to be able to see who you are talking too and this face to face via the internet is just as effective as if the student was with you in the office. In fact, Skype would be great for holding office hours.

Skype also allows you to keep up professionally with others who share the same passion for online teaching. It could be used to connect a professional group or connect two teachers who across country in order to share ideas and research. Just as I connected and keep up family  while in China, I could easily work with a teacher at an American school in China if I wanted through Skype. Skype is truely a connective tool that instructors should look to utilize in their courses.

Podcast

Podcast are a great way for an instructor to supplement any online course or even a face to face classroom. I happen to teach online Government and Economics at the high school level. I was able to find a podcast on The Economics of Sports by  Stanford Professor Roger Null, who is a leading expert in the subject. This subject is perfect for my Economics class because on the local level the city of Sacramento has been trying to come up with a plan to build a new arena for the Sacramento Kings of the NBA. Since I live and teach in a community twenty-five miles east of  Sacramento, my students are very familiar with the situation. Talks for a new arena have failed, even though the city was willing to fund a 391 million dollar downtown arena. The owners have backed out because many believe they are looking to move to Southern California were there is supposedly a bigger market. Many believe the Kings will move after this year, ending a thirty year run in Sacramento.

As an example of how a podcast can enhance a lesson, I am going to use this podcast from the Library of Economics and Liberty:

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2012/08/roger_noll_on_t.html#more

In this lesson, I will do the following:

1) Have students go to the link for the Podcast.

2) Post on the disscussion board answering this question: Should the City and County of Sacramento build a new arena for the Sacramento Kings?

3) Reply to two of your classmates posts.

4) Write a two page essay defending your position, citing at least three sources besides the podcast.

This lesson is an example of how class can go beyond the textbook. I do not have the expertise of Professor Null and now I can have my students attend a discussion with a Stanford professor. This could be the same type of discussion he has with his students in his Economics class, what great exposure for the students in my class. That is the beauty of podcasts. I could even create a podcast or have my students do it. Our students are use to podcasts and as instructors, we need to take advantage of this technology.

I should point out that this podcast has points about small city vs. large city markets, player pay, and the culture of youth sports and scholarships, so there are even more points that can be used in making points on economics. My intention as an instructor is to give students exposure to topics that show how economics plays a role in our everyday lives and really stretches across all areas of our lives.