Tag Archives: Online Learning

University of Michigan study: How video games affect classroom teaching

18 Dec

Jordan Shapiro reported in the PJ Tech article, Study Shows Video Games’ Impact On Face-to-face Teaching:

In the past, I have covered many studies that look at the efficacy of game based learning. But a recent study from A-GAMES, a collaboration between New York University and the University of Michigan, is significant because it looks at the way games impact the learning experience and the relationship between teacher and student. It does this by considering how digital games support ‘formative assessment’ — a term educators and researchers use to describe “the techniques used by teachers to monitor, measure, and support student progress and learning during instruction.” It may sound fancy but “formative assessment” really just refers to the ongoing attention that all good teachers have always provided their students, monitoring student learning and offering ongoing and specific feedback.

A-GAMES stands for Analyzing Games for Assessment in Math, ELA/Social Studies, and Science. The project is one among many games and learning research projects funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The study, entitled “Empowering Educators: Supporting Student Progress in the Classroom with Digital Games,” was undertaken by Jan Plass at NYU and Barry Fishman at University of Michigan. Surveying 488 K-12 teachers from across the U.S., they found that “more than half of teachers (57 percent) use digital games weekly or more often in teaching, with 18 percent using games for teaching on a daily basis. A higher percentage of elementary school teachers (66 percent for grade K-2 teachers and 79 percent for grade 3-5 teachers) use games weekly or more often for teaching, compared with middle school (47 percent) and high school (40 percent) teachers.”

These numbers are more or less consistent with previous studies. particularly the Level-up Learning study that the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop issued this past fall. That study focused on teachers and how their thinking about digital games in the classroom impacts actual implementation. This A-GAMES study, alternatively, is looking in more detail at the way games impact the teacher’s ability to provide personalized attention, assessment, and feedback to individual students.

The NYU/University of Michigan study found that on a weekly basis, 34 percent of teachers use games to conduct formative assessment. What are they assessing? Facts and knowledge; concepts and big ideas; mastery of specific skills. And they are doing formative assessment with games in the same way they do it with other classroom activities: observing students in class; asking probing questions; looking over their shoulders. All of this suggests that “using digital games may enable teachers to conduct formative assessment more frequently and effectively.” Game based learning seems to be aiding and supporting existing strategies rather than radically transforming the practice of teaching…


The University of Michigan reports the key findings:                                                                                             Key Findings

If digital games are to play a key role in classroom instruction, they must support core instructional activities. Formative assessment — techniques used by teachers to monitor, measure, and support student progress and learning during instruction — is a core practice of successful classrooms. The A-GAMES project (Analyzing Games for Assessment in Math, ELA/ Social Studies, and Science) studied how teachers actually use digital games in their teaching to support formative assessment.

In Fall 2013, 488 K-12 teachers across the United States were surveyed about their digital game use and formative assessment practices to gain insight into their relationship to one another. The survey explored three areas:

Our results reveal that the way teachers use digital games for formative assessment is related to their overall formative assessment practices. Using digital games as part of instruction may enable teachers to conduct formative assessment more frequently and more effectively.                                                 http://gamesandlearning.umich.edu/a-games/key-findings/

This study is interesting because it looks at how video games allow personalized interaction in the classroom.

Elena Malykhina of Scientific American wrote in Fact or Fiction?: Video Games Are the Future of Education:

If educational video games are well executed, they can provide a strong framework for inquiry and project-based learning, says Alan Gershenfeld, co-founder and president of E-Line Media, a publisher of computer and video games and a Founding Industry Fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Games and Impact. “Games are also uniquely suited to fostering the skills necessary for navigating a complex, interconnected, rapidly changing 21st century,” he adds.

Digital literacy and understanding how systems (computer and otherwise) work will become increasingly important in a world where many of today’s students will pursue jobs that do not currently exist, says Gershenfeld, who wrote about video games’ potential to transform education in the February Scientific American. Tomorrow’s workers will also likely change jobs many times throughout their careers and “will almost certainly have jobs that require some level of mastery of digital media and technology,” he adds….

Perhaps the biggest impact of video games will be on students who have not responded as well to traditional teaching methods. Nearly half of the teachers surveyed say it is the low-performing students who generally benefit from the use of games, and more than half believe games have the ability to motivate struggling and special education students.


See, Teachers Surveyed on Using Digital Games in Class       http://www.gamesandlearning.org/2014/06/09/teachers-on-using-games-in-class/

As with any instructional technique, there are pros and cons.

Justin Marquis Ph.D. writes in the Classroom Aid article, Debates about Gamification and   Game-Based Learning(#GBL) in Education:

The Negatives

Those who have both feet firmly in the anti-gamification camp most often argue that there are no empirical studies that demonstrate real learning from games or that the skills learned in game play do not translate to the real world. That said, however, there are real negatives that can be associated with the introduction of gamification into education:

  • Cost – A fully game-based curriculum, or even one that relies heavily on games, represents a substantial increase in cost over standard book/paper/pencil education. For starters, there is the cost of the equipment, the cost of the software, and the additional expense of training teachers in the most effective pedagogical use of the medium.
  • Distraction from other objectives – The idea that playing games pulls learners from other more valuable skills must also be addressed. The underlying premise here is that games are fairly limited in their content and the context that they present for learning. This is true….
  • Social isolation – One of the biggest ongoing criticisms of games, and technology in general, is that it promotes anti-social behavior and isolates individuals. While some of this may have been true prior to the explosion of Web 2.0 technologies, it certainly is not any longer.  The focus of most new games is in social play. While players may not be interacting face-to-face they are interacting nonetheless. In fact, these technologically mediated interactions mirror much of the real-world communication that drives our personal lives and business. The process and social norms taught by these interactions represent very real and useful skills that translate perfectly outside of games.
  • Shortened attention span – This is the criticism of all modern media, and probably was a criticism of books when Guttenberg first started mass producing them. New technologies necessitate new ways of viewing the world and the nature of knowledge. Computer games are no different. The often rapid pace of action and the immediate feedback can make people expect the same kinds of fast-paced, instantaneous response of all things….

The Positives

While the limitations above are daunting and require significant shifting of educational and societal priorities in order to be overcome, they are worth addressing, particularly if weighed against the positive effects of gamification.

  • Technological literacy – Game play promotes literacy at many different levels, from technological to socio-emotional. At the very minimum, game play supports the development of skills necessary to run a computer, but it really goes far beyond that, as the installation, upkeep, and networking required for much game play also promotes high-level literacy skills in students (Marquis, 2009).
  • Multitasking mentality – The reality of our world is that we all multitask to a certain extent, splitting our attention between multiple screen, devices, and stimuli constantly. Games enhance this ability by forcing players to balance multiple kinds of inputs simultaneously in order to be successful. Try the fun multitasking game at the end of this post to see how well you can focus on multiple inputs.
  • Teamwork – While the isolationist tendencies of gamers have long been a popular stereotype, many current games are built on a social networking paradigm that not only allows for teamwork and collaborative play, but often requires it to be successful. This is one of the key skills required for working in a hyper-connected global economy.
  • Long-range planning – While the critique of games is that they shorten players’ ability to concentrate for extended periods of time, the opposite is actually true. Game designer and researcher Jane McGonigal refers to the hyper-intense and prolonged focus that gamers can experience in well-designed games and sees importance in the concept of “blissful productivity,” where players become so absorbed in the game that they lose track of time while working hard to achieve goals….
  • Individualized instruction – Because GBL focuses on each student playing and learning for themselves, individualized instruction is a natural part of the equation. This means two things; each student can work towards mastery, and each student can work at their own pace.

Many successful educators try to appeal to their students’ interest in order to engage them. With so many children and adults currently playing video games, games represent a natural way for teachers to reach a larger audience and have fun at the same time….                                                                   http://classroom-aid.com/2013/04/07/debates-about-gamification-and-game-based-learninggbl-in-education/

There should not be a one size fits all education system. For some children, video games are an appropriate education strategy.

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Accountability in virtual schools

18 Mar

Moi voiced her skepticism about for-profit online charter schools in Online for-profit K-12, good for bankers, bad for kids https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/online-for-profit-k-12-good-for-bankers-bad-for-kids/ : All children can learn. Stephanie Saul of the New York Times is reporting on the cynical operation of for-profit charter schools in the article, Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools which describes how the dreams of some children are being hindered. 

By almost every educational measure, the Agora Cyber Charter School is failing.

Nearly 60 percent of its students are behind grade level in math. Nearly 50 percent trail in reading. A third do not graduate on time. And hundreds of children, from kindergartners to seniors, withdraw within months after they enroll.

By Wall Street standards, though, Agora is a remarkable success that has helped enrich K12 Inc., the publicly traded company that manages the school. And the entire enterprise is paid for by taxpayers.

Agora is one of the largest in a portfolio of similar public schools across the country run by K12. Eight other for-profit companies also run online public elementary and high schools, enrolling a large chunk of the more than 200,000 full-time cyberpupils in the United States.

The pupils work from their homes, in some cases hundreds of miles from their teachers. There is no cafeteria, no gym and no playground. Teachers communicate with students by phone or in simulated classrooms on the Web. But while the notion of an online school evokes cutting-edge methods, much of the work is completed the old-fashioned way, with a pencil and paper while seated at a desk.

Kids mean money. Agora is expecting income of $72 million this school year, accounting for more than 10 percent of the total anticipated revenues of K12, the biggest player in the online-school business. The second-largest, Connections Education, with revenues estimated at $190 million, was bought this year by the education and publishing giant Pearson for $400 million.

The business taps into a formidable coalition of private groups and officials promoting nontraditional forms of public education. The growth of for-profit online schools, one of the more overtly commercial segments of the school choice movement, is rooted in the theory that corporate efficiencies combined with the Internet can revolutionize public education, offering high quality at reduced cost.

The New York Times has spent several months examining this idea, focusing on K12 Inc. A look at the company’s operations, based on interviews and a review of school finances and performance records, raises serious questions about whether K12 schools — and full-time online schools in general — benefit children or taxpayers, particularly as state education budgets are being slashed.

Instead, a portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.

Current and former staff members of K12 Inc. schools say problems begin with intense recruitment efforts that fail to filter out students who are not suited for the program, which requires strong parental commitment and self-motivated students. Online schools typically are characterized by high rates of withdrawal.

Teachers have had to take on more and more students, relaxing rigor and achievement along the way, according to interviews. While teachers do not have the burden of a full day of classes, they field questions from families, monitor students’ progress and review and grade schoolwork. Complaints about low pay and high class loads — with some high school teachers managing more than 250 students — have prompted a unionization battle at Agora, which has offices in Wayne, Pa. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/education/online-schools-score-better-on-wall-street-than-in-classrooms.html?emc=eta1

The Illinois Online Network has a good synopsis of the pros and cons of online education at Strengths and Weaknesses of Online Learning  K-12 for profit schools exhibit many of the deficiencies of other for-profit schools. See, For-profit colleges: Money buys government, not quality for students, https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/for-profit-colleges-money-buys-government-not-quality-for-students/

There are different types of online or virtual schools.

Technology Source.Org defines what a virtual school is:

Virtual school refers to an institution that is not “brick and mortar” bound. All student services and courses are conducted through Internet technology.  The virtual school differs from the traditional school through the physical medium that links administrators, teachers, and students. 


The Executive Summary of the 2001 report, Virtual Schools: A Study of Virtual Schools in the United States provides a good summary of the types of virtual schools:

Examples of Virtual Schools

State-sanctioned, state-level. In at least 14 states, entities can be identified that have been sanctioned by state government to act as the state’s “own” virtual school. The two newest ones, in Idaho and Maryland, have not yet been launched..

§ Example: The Florida Virtual School (previously the Florida Virtual School), begun in 1997, has been state funded as an independent entity. It offers a full online curriculum but not a diploma. The largest virtual school in terms of enrollments, it acts as a course provider for districts in Florida and other states.

College and university-based. Some university independent study high schools and video-based continuing education programs have taken their K-12 courses online. Virtual colleges and universities make hundreds of their introductory college-level virtual courses available to upper division high school students through dual or concurrent enrollment, a phenomenon not studied in depth here.

§ Example: The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Independent Study High School developed CLASS online diploma program courses with a federal grant, marketed through the for-profit CLASS.com, and is now creating its own new courses.

Consortium and regionally-based. A number of virtual school consortia have been created. Virtual school consortia are national, multi-state, state-level and regional in nature. Many regional education agencies have added virtual K-12 courses to their service menus for schools. Most virtual school consortia act as brokers for external provider opportunities or share courses among members.

§ Massachusetts. The nonprofit VHS Inc. (formerly Concord VHS) is the most successful collaborative or barter model of virtual schools in existence, seeking sustainability through its broad network of participating schools.

Local education agency-based. A large number of local public schools and school districts have created their own virtual schools, mainly to serve their own supplemental or alternative education needs and to reach out to home school populations. They usually employ their own regular certified K-12 teachers, either within the regular course of instruction, or “on the side.”

§ Example: The HISD Virtual School in Houston offers middle school curricula for enrolled and home school students, and AP courses to supplement its high school offerings, while Mindquest is a Bloomington (MN) public schools program offering interdisciplinary project-based courses for persons 17 or older, for remedial work, GED Fast Track and regular high school diplomas

Virtual charter schools. State-chartered entities including public school districts, nonprofit and for-profit organizations operate public charter schools exempt from some rules and regulations. Charter school legislation has a major impact on how these schools operate.

§ Example: Basehor-Linwood Virtual Charter School in Kansas focuses on providing statefunded

public education opportunities for K-12 home schoolers across the state. Founded in 1998, it delivers self-developed courses in a full diploma program, using a certified district teacher in each elementary grade level and secondary content area.

Private virtual schools. Like local public schools, many private schools have developed virtual school programs. Their programs are mainly designed to provide supplemental courses and instructional materials for home schoolers. A limited number offer state-approved or regionally accredited high school diplomas, including Keystone National High School, Laurel Springs school, and WISE Internet High School.

§ Christa McAuliffe Academy in Washington state has offered Internet-based K-12 learning since 1995. Student cohorts meet weekly with their mentor in an online virtual classroom meetings, and students also undertake online mastery-based learning curricula facilitated by CMA mentors and developed by external providers. The school has regional accreditation, state approval and is seeking cross-regional approval through the Commission on International and Transregional Accreditation (CITA).

For-profit providers of curricula, content, tool and infrastructure. Many for-profit companies have played an important role in the development of virtual schools. Companies such as Apex Learning and Class.com have provided “starter” courses for many new virtual school efforts. Blackboard and eCollege have provided delivery platforms used by many virtual schools. Many companies are expanding their original focus, offering expanded curricula or comprehensive services to meet the needs of this growing market. Web development software companies such as Macromedia have provided the tools used by virtual schools to self-develop courses.

Building on the previous study (Clark, 2000), some key characteristics of virtual schools are presented in Summary and Recommendations, according to eight aspects of virtual high school organization: funding, technology; curriculum; teaching; student services; assessment; policy and administration; and marketing and public relations. Based on an analysis of virtual school activities and trends, recommendations are made at the end of this study in these key areas, for virtual school planners.


No matter the type of school, whether bricks and mortar or online, there must be accountability.

Michelle R. Davis writes in the Education Week week article, E-Schools Put Specific Measures for Success in Place: The devil is in the details when evaluating the educational effectiveness of virtual schools:

Virtual schools, particularly those that provide full-time services for students, are coming under increasing scrutiny over student achievement and accountability. Several reports in recent months have questioned everything from the transient nature of virtual student populations to the integrity of student work and the lack of comparisons between online and face-to-face learning….

In 2011, Welner was a co-author of the report “Online K-12 Schooling in the U.S.,” which raised questions about the quality of online programs and concerns about growth and oversight of such programs. It looked mainly at schools operated by private companies.

While many of the criticisms are directed at virtual schools run by for-profit companies, even online schools affiliated with states and school districts say they are taking new steps, or reinforcing established ones, to ensure that students are learning….

Michael K. Barbour, an assistant professor of instructional technology at Wayne State University, in Detroit, says online schools should be held to the same accountability standards as brick-and-mortar schools, whether that means meeting AYP standards or state and local testing levels. Though some online schools may argue their test scores won’t measure up because students start out several grade levels behind, Barbour doesn’t believe that is a valid response.

“A lot of excuses they give are just excuses,” he says. “These kids that are at risk or behind came from traditional brick-and-mortar schools in that position.”

E-Learning Accountability Measures

Experts say virtual schools should take some key steps to integrate accountability into their programs, including:

  1. Have students take exams in person to ensure they are doing their own work and absorbing information.
  2. Assess how students are doing numerous times throughout a course and provide intervention strategies as early as possible
  3. Use programs that can track detailed data on how long it takes a student to complete assignments, how often students are participating, and how frequently students and teachers have contact.
  4. Judge online schools by the same measures that brick-and-mortar schools are evaluated by, for example, adequate yearly progress and state testing

SOURCE: Education Week


Technology can be a useful tool and education aid, BUT it is not a cheap way to move the masses through the education system without the guidance and mentoring that a quality human and humane teacher can provide. Education and children have suffered because cash sluts and credit crunch weasels have destroyed this society and there is no one taking them on. They will continue to bleed this society dry while playing their masters of the universe games until they are stopped.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

The latest education Ponzi scheme: Education uprising in Idaho

5 Jan

If one believes that all children, regardless of that child’s status have a right to a good basic education and that society must fund and implement policies, which support this principle. Then, one must discuss the issue of equity in education.  Plessy v. Ferguson established the principle of “separate but equal” in race issues. Brown v. Board of Education which overturned the principle of “separate but equal.” would not have been necessary, but for Plessy. See also, the history of Brown v. Board of Education Because of the segregation, which resulted after Plessy, most folks focus their analysis of Brown almost solely on race. The issue of equity was just as important. The equity issue was explained in terms of unequal resources and unequal access to education.

Matt Richtel has written an interesting New York Times article, Teachers Resist High-Tech Push in Idaho Schools.

Ann Rosenbaum, a former military police officer in the Marines, does not shrink from a fight, having even survived a close encounter with a car bomb in Iraq. Her latest conflict is quite different: she is now a high school teacher, and she and many of her peers in Idaho are resisting a statewide plan that dictates how computers should be used in classrooms.

Last year, the state legislature overwhelmingly passed a law that requires all high school students to take some online classes to graduate, and that the students and their teachers be given laptops or tablets. The idea was to establish Idaho’s schools as a high-tech vanguard.

To help pay for these programs, the state may have to shift tens of millions of dollars away from salaries for teachers and administrators. And the plan envisions a fundamental change in the role of teachers, making them less a lecturer at the front of the room and more of a guide helping students through lessons delivered on computers.

This change is part of a broader shift that is creating tension — a tension that is especially visible in Idaho but is playing out across the country. Some teachers, even though they may embrace classroom technology, feel policy makers are thrusting computers into classrooms without their input or proper training. And some say they are opposed to shifting money to online classes and other teaching methods whose benefits remain unproved.

Teachers don’t object to the use of technology,” said Sabrina Laine, vice president of the American Institutes for Research, which has studied the views of the nation’s teachers using grants from organizations like the Gates and Ford Foundations. “They object to being given a resource with strings attached, and without the needed support to use it effectively to improve student learning.”

In Idaho, teachers have been in open revolt. They marched on the capital last spring, when the legislation was under consideration. They complain that lawmakers listened less to them than to heavy lobbying by technology companies, including Intel and Apple. Teacher and parent groups gathered 75,000 verified signatures, more than was needed, to put a referendum on the ballot next November that could overturn the law.

This technology is being thrown on us. It’s being thrown on parents and thrown on kids,” said Ms. Rosenbaum, 32, who has written letters to the governor and schools superintendent. In her letters she tells them she is a Republican and a Marine, because, she says, it has become fashionable around the country to dismiss complaining teachers as union-happy liberals. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/04/technology/idaho-teachers-fight-a-reliance-on-computers.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

Grading the Digital School

A Changing Role

Articles in this series are looking at the intersection of education, technology and business as schools embrace digital learning.

Previous Articles in the Series »

The Frontier of Classroom Technology

One of the interesting allegations in Idaho is that funds are being shifted from teacher salaries. A key question is who profits or benefits from this particular foray into technology?

Melanie Smollin has an excellent post at Take Part, Five Reasons Why Teacher Turnover Is On The Rise

With approximately 1.6 million teachers set to retire in the next decade, replenishing America’s teaching force should be a top priority. But filling classrooms with new teachers is only half the battle. Retaining them is equally important.

Numerous studies show that teachers perform best after being in the classroom for at least five years. According to a McKinsey study, 14 percent of American teachers leave after only one year, and 46 percent quit before their fifth year. In countries with the highest results on international tests, teacher turnover rates are much lower—around 3 percent.

This constant cycling in and out of new teachers is a costly phenomena. Students miss being taught by experienced educators, and schools and districts nationwide spend about $2.2 billion per year recruiting and training replacements.

Why are so many new teachers fleeing the profession after so few years in the classroom? Here are the top five reasons teacher turnover is an ongoing challenge:

5. BURNOUT: A recent U.C. Berkeley study of Los Angeles charter schools found unusually high rates of teacher turnover. At the 163 charter schools studied, teacher turnover hovered around 40 percent, compared to 15 percent at traditional public schools.

Since demands on charter school educators are seemingly boundless, including extended hours, researchers theorized, burnout is a viable explanation for the teacher exodus. “We have seen earlier results showing that working conditions are tough and challenging in charter schools,” explained U.C. Berkeley’s Bruce Fuller. “Charter teachers wear many hats and have many duties and are teaching urban kids, challenging urban kids, but we were surprised by the magnitude of this effect.”

4.THREAT OF LAYOFFS: In response to annual budget shortfalls, districts nationwide have sent pink slips to tens of thousands of teachers each spring for the past four years. In 2011, California sent out 30,000.

Retired teacher and author Jaime O’Neill believes this ongoing threat to job security has a destabilizing effect. As a new teacher, he wrote, you can expect your job “threatened each and every year when the annual state budget reveals once more that big cuts to education are coming, that you’ve been pink slipped until or unless there’s a last-minute reprieve. That yearly panic will cause you to wonder why you ever went into teaching in the first place, and you will surely make plans to seek other employment with each mention of just how precarious your employment is.”

3. LOW WAGES: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently said that teachers should earn between $60,000 and $150,000 per year. That’s a far cry from the current national average starting salary for teachers, which is $35,139.

Linda DeRegnaucourt, an accomplished high school math teacher, told CNN that after working for five years without a raise, and taking home an annual salary of $38,000, she simply cannot afford to continue doing the job she loves. DeRegnaucourt, like many other teachers, will leave the profession to pursue a more lucrative career.

2. TESTING PRESSURE: Since the No Child Left Behind Act was introduced in 2001, standardized test scores in math and reading have become the most important accountability measure used to evaluate schools.

Studies show that pressure to raise student test scores causes teachers to experience more stress and less job satisfaction. Many educators resent narrowing curriculum and stifling creativity in favor of teaching to the test.

On the National Center for Education Information’s “Profile of Teachers in the U.S. 2011,” the majority of comments submitted by survey respondents were “expressions of strong opposition to the current emphasis on student testing.”

As states increasingly rely on standardized test scores to evaluate individual educators, determine teacher pay and make lay-off decisions, testing pressure will only increase.

1. POOR WORKING CONDITIONS: When the Gates foundation polled 40,000 teachers about job satisfaction, the majority agreed that supportive leadership, time for collaboration, access to high quality curriculum and resources, clean and safe buildings, and relevant professional development were even more important than higher salaries.

But working conditions in many public schools remain far from this ideal—especially for beginning teachers, who are most likely to be assigned to the highest-need schools. Despite the added challenges they face, these teachers are often given few resources and little professional support.

It is true that students need to be familiar with technology, but students also need a firm grounding in basic academic skills.

It is interesting that in “Silicon Valley,” the epicenter of the tech revolution, tech moguls often send their children to a low tech school. Matt Richtel reports in the New York Times article, A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute:

The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.

But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.

Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix.

This is the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, one of around 160 Waldorf schools in the country that subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.

The Waldorf method is nearly a century old, but its foothold here among the digerati puts into sharp relief an intensifying debate about the role of computers in education.

I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school,” said Alan Eagle, 50, whose daughter, Andie, is one of the 196 children at the Waldorf elementary school; his son William, 13, is at the nearby middle school. “The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous.”

Mr. Eagle knows a bit about technology. He holds a computer science degree from Dartmouth and works in executive communications at Google, where he has written speeches for the chairman, Eric E. Schmidt. He uses an iPad and a smartphone. But he says his daughter, a fifth grader, “doesn’t know how to use Google,” and his son is just learning. (Starting in eighth grade, the school endorses the limited use of gadgets.)

Three-quarters of the students here have parents with a strong high-tech connection. Mr. Eagle, like other parents, sees no contradiction. Technology, he says, has its time and place: “If I worked at Miramax and made good, artsy, rated R movies, I wouldn’t want my kids to see them until they were 17.”

While other schools in the region brag about their wired classrooms, the Waldorf school embraces a simple, retro look — blackboards with colorful chalk, bookshelves with encyclopedias, wooden desks filled with workbooks and No. 2 pencils. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/technology/at-waldorf-school-in-silicon-valley-technology-can-wait.html?pagewanted=all

Certainly something to ponder. Meanwhile, folks should be asking who really benefits and more importantly, who profits in Idaho?


Online K-12 education as a cash cow for ‘Wall Street’ https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/online-k-12-education-as-a-cash-cow-for-wall-street/

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©


Online K-12 education as a cash cow for ‘Wall Street’

21 Nov

There should be a variety of options and approaches in education. Still, School choice does not mean education on the cheap! K-12 education should not be the next sub-prime mortgage or derivative gambit for large for-profit companies. Lee Fang has written the alarming Nation article, How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools.

While most education reform advocates cloak their goals in the rhetoric of “putting children first,” the conceit was less evident at a conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, earlier this year.

Standing at the lectern of Arizona State University’s SkySong conference center in April, investment banker Michael Moe exuded confidence as he kicked off his second annual confab of education startup companies and venture capitalists. A press packet cited reports that rapid changes in education could unlock “immense potential for entrepreneurs.” “This education issue,” Moe declared, “there’s not a bigger problem or bigger opportunity in my estimation.”

Moe has worked for almost fifteen years at converting the K-12 education system into a cash cow for Wall Street. A veteran of Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, he now leads an investment group that specializes in raising money for businesses looking to tap into more than $1 trillion in taxpayer money spent annually on primary education. His consortium of wealth management and consulting firms, called Global Silicon Valley Partners, helped K12 Inc. go public and has advised a number of other education companies in finding capital.

Moe’s conference marked a watershed moment in school privatization. His first “Education Innovation Summit,” held last year, attracted about 370 people and fifty-five presenting companies. This year, his conference hosted more than 560 people and 100 companies, and featured luminaries like former DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, now an education executive at News Corporation, a recent high-powered entrant into the for-profit education field. Klein is just one of many former school officials to cash out. Fenty now consults for Rosetta Stone, a language company seeking to expand into the growing K-12 market.

As Moe ticked through the various reasons education is the next big “undercapitalized” sector of the economy, like healthcare in the 1990s, he also read through a list of notable venture investment firms that recently completed deals relating to the education-technology sector, including Sequoia and Benchmark Capital. Kleiner Perkins, a major venture capital firm and one of the first to back Amazon.com and Google, is now investing in education technology, Moe noted.


Henry M. Levin of Columbia University had some cautionary notes about for-profit K-12 education in 2001.

In the 2001 paper, Thoughts on For-profit Schools, Levin wrote:

The fact is that we know little about how for-profit schools will operate and how they will affect students and other schools. At least three major questions have yet to be answered satisfyingly:

If schools are a potentially profitable endeavor, then why did entrepreneurs wait so long to enter the market? Is there something unique about schooling that makes it difficult to earn a profit?

Now that we do have for-profit schools, how will they achieve cost savings? Will they bring fundamentally different approaches to education through curricular and technological innovations that will “break the mold”?

Even if they are more effective or less costly, or both, will they earn profits that are comparable to the returns on other investments?


Levin mused about some of the other issues that for-profit operators of K-12:

In short, even the most expensive private schools with the most elite clientele fail to cover their costs with tuition. This goes far in explaining why entrepreneurs have shied away from the K–12 market. This is not to say that an individual, for-profit, family-owned school can’t survive. I know of a few for-profit schools at the K–12 level and more at the preschool level that appear to be marginally profitable. But much of what appears as profit is due to the family members’ hard work for little pay. The salaries they draw on the school understate the value of their time, leaving the impression that the enterprise is profitable.

Whether this can be replicated on a large scale by corporate entities is doubtful. Historically, economic studies have not identified substantial economies of scale in education at school sites or in multi-school endeavors. Perhaps this is for the reason suggested by John Chubb and Terry Moe in Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools (1990): that the best results are obtained when schools are given great autonomy.2 A corporate competitor in schooling must establish brand and product identity, which necessitates relatively uniform operations and services from site-to-site. This puts the need for quality control and similarity from site to site in direct competition with the need to be responsive to differences among particular clients and settings.


One business plan about how the big corporations plan to turn a buck in K-12 education is the move toward online education. Laura Herrerra’s New York Times article, In Florida, Virtual Classrooms Without Teachers describes what may actually happen in practice.

 MIAMI — On the first day of her senior year at North Miami Beach Senior High School, Naomi Baptiste expected to be greeted by a teacher when she walked into her precalculus class.

All there were were computers in the class,” said Naomi, who walked into a room of confused students. “We found out that over the summer they signed us up for these courses.”

Naomi is one of over 7,000 students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools enrolled in a program in which core subjects are taken using computers in a classroom with no teacher. A “facilitator” is in the room to make sure students progress. That person also deals with any technical problems.

These virtual classrooms, called e-learning labs, were put in place last August as a result of Florida’s Class Size Reduction Amendment, passed in 2002. The amendment limits the number of students allowed in classrooms, but not in virtual labs….

Under the state’s class-reduction amendment, high school classrooms cannot surpass a 25-student limit in core subjects, like English or math. Fourth- through eighth-grade classrooms can have no more than 22 students, and prekindergarten through third grade can have no more than 18.

Alix Braun, 15, a sophomore at Miami Beach High, takes Advanced Placement macroeconomics in an e-learning lab with 35 to 40 other students. There are 445 students enrolled in the online courses at her school, and while Alix chose to be placed in the lab, she said most of her lab mates did not.

None of them want to be there,” Alix said, “and for virtual education you have to be really self-motivated. This was not something they chose to do, and it’s a really bad situation to be put in because it is not your choice…”

Some teachers are skeptical of how well the program can help students learn.

The Illinois Online Network has a good synopsis of the pros and cons of online education at Strengths and Weaknesses of Online Learning Technology can be a useful tool and education aid, BUT it is not a cheap way to move the masses through the education system without the guidance and mentoring that a quality human and humane teacher can provide.

Many critics put the emphasis on “for-profit” and will adamantly argue that any entity which is for-profit is inherently bad for education. Moi would put the emphasis on neighborhood choice and argue that entities without strong ties to the neighborhood they intend to operate in, do not have the loyalty to succeeding in that particular neighborhood and will probably not be successful. Let’s be honest, corporations intend to generate a profit from their education activities as their primary goal. The secondary goal is probably the education of children. Moi is skeptical that a for-profit entity really has the commitment to a neighborhood and thus to a neighborhood’s schools. Still, moi is not like some so called “anti-reform” types who foam at the mouth at the words charter and for-profit. There is no magic bullet or “Holy Grail” in education. There is only what works to produce academic achievement in each population of children. That is why school choice is so important.

Children are not the new sub-prime mortgage business or the new derivative gambit. People must be afraid, very afraid of the vultures who are now hovering around the education sector. If folks don’t watch them, the results will not be pretty.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Does corporate for-profit education work for students?

1 Nov

The History of Education in America is a good capsule description of the forces which created the idea of American education.

Nineteenth Century American Education is often referred to as “The Common School Period.”  It was during this century that education went from being completely private to being available to the common masses.

The Common School movement

…not until the 1840s did an organized system exist. Education reformers like Horace Mann and Henry Barnard, working in Massachusetts and Connecticut respectively, helped create statewide common-school systems. These reformers sought to increase opportunities for all children and create common bonds among an increasingly diverse population. They also argued education could preserve social stability and prevent crime and poverty.

Common-school advocates worked to establish a free elementary education accessible to everyone and financed by public funds. As such, they advocated public schools should be accountable to local school boards and state governments. They also helped establish compulsory school attendance laws for elementary-age children. By 1918, such laws existed in all states.


A situation with a Washington state school district causes one to question what is the future for the accessible education and accountability promoted by the “Common School” movement.

Chris Ingalls of KING5 News is reporting in the story, Online public schools produce profits but some are failing students that some for-profit online schools may not be a bargain for the students. Ingalls’ report focuses on Forks school district, Quillayute Valley School District which is dealing with Insight School of Washington.

Last year nearly 3,000 online students from across the state studied online through Insight. That’s far more than the 1,100 students who studied in traditional classrooms in Forks.

While the school district has oversight of Insight, the online school is actually owned and operated by a private company.

Public records obtained by KING 5 show that Quillayute schools paid The Apollo Group up to $1.2 million a month to run Insight School.

The money comes from public education dollars that the state pays for each student enrolled in a district.

Last year, the state paid about $7200 per Quillayute student – money that was split between the district and The Apollo Group…

The arrangement also gives a private company like Apollo rare access to Washington public education dollars.

A law passed by the Washington legislature in 2005 allows districts to partner with corporations to develop online school programs.

New school model

There are now 40 districts in the state with online programs. Most partner with corporations to provide the software and expertise for their online programs, but others allow corporations to run the entire program.

The teacher to student ratio is 1:53, one teacher for every 53 online students….

Many Insight students are struggling.

According to state records for the 2009-2010 school year, these are the statistics for Insight students:

  • 50% are passing their classes
  • 45% dropped out of class
  • 7.2% estimated to graduate on time


Apollo Group is one of the for-profit companies who have been investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for fraud. See, For-Profit Schools: Deception and Fraud Revealed http://moneywatch.bnet.com/spending/blog/college-solution/for-profit-schools-deception-and-fraud-revealed/2689/

National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education (Teachers College, Columbia University) has an excellent paper about for-profit Schools.

What are the possible disadvantages of for-profit schools?

  • Lack of Knowledge. A proven blueprint for operating a for-profit school does not exist. Thus, management teams may make costly errors.
  • Misguided Focus. The fundamental purpose of a school is to educate, not make money. Essential school functions may conflict with realizing profits.
  • Eliminated Services. For-profit schools may minimize or eliminate social services readily available in public schools, because of the large cost.

It appears that many of the disadvantages of the for-profit school model are evident in the Quillayute Valley School District

Moi writes this blog around a set of principles which are:

All children have a right to a good basic education.

  1. Education is a partnership between the student, parent(s) or guardian(s), the teacher(s), and the school. All parts of the partnership must be active and involved.
  2. Society should support and foster strong families.
  3. Society should promote the idea that parents are responsible for parenting their children and people who are not prepared to accept that responsibility should not be parenting children.
  4. The sexualization of the culture has had devastating effects on children, particularly young women. For many there has been the lure of the “booty call” rather than focusing on genuine achievement.Education is a life long pursuit.

The goal of this society should be to increase real education opportunities for all.

Wired Academic has the interesting post, Who Knew Britney Spears Attended A Nebraska’s Online High School? This almost tongue-in-cheek post highlights the issues of quality and accountability. See, http://www.wiredacademic.com/2011/10/who-knew-britney-spears-attended-a-nebraskas-online-high-school/

There is no one magic bullet or “Holy Grail” in education. BUT, the point is to focus on education first. There appears to be a conflict of interest with many for-profit operators of schools who see their first duty to their shareholders and not the students put in their charge who seek an education. There appears to be a conflict between the goals of the “Common School” movement and the quest for a healthy corporate bottom line.


Education Inc.: How Private Companies Profit from Public Schools by Abby Rapoport http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/09/08-9

Here’s Why For Profit Education Stocks are Actively Traded Now by Laurie Danas http://wallstcheatsheet.com/stocks/heres-why-for-profit-education-stocks-are-actively-traded-now.html/

For-Profit Schools, Tested Again by Gretchen Morgenson http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/business/31gret.html

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©