Goodbye CV?

CV_1685452c

 

To what extent does a CV reflect someone’s appropriateness for a job? How much does it cost recruiters to read and select candidates from piles of CVs? How much effort and cost goes into developing the optimal resume?

This year in China, 33,000 graduates applied for 70 places on the French cosmetics company L’Oreal’s graduate recruitment scheme. Rather than submitting their CV, they were asked to answer three simple questions via their smartphones. Then, a Shanghai-based startup called Seedlink used predictive language analytics to match right candidates with L’Oreal’s recruitment criteria. Seedlink’s RCXUE product asked open ended questions such as “”If you had one month and a £4,000 budget to tackle any project your heart desired, what would you do?” The software then analysed the language used in the answers, and compared each candidate’s response to draw up a shortlist.

Prior to using this approach L’Oreal filtered candidates by selecting only from China’s top universities. However, L’Oreal is joining a growing band of top firms who are questioning the value of high academic achievement.

Google, for example, recognise that good grades are useful, but not a good indicator of future performance. According to Laszlo Bock, ‘head of hiring’ at Google, quoted in the NYT – “For every job the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability ….  the ability to process on the fly and to pull together disparate bits of information… The second is leadership —  i.e. when faced with a problem do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead… Another is humility and ownership… Research shows that many graduates from hotshot business schools plateau. “Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure.”

The implications of the use of language analytics in assessment are immense. For example, ATC21s, the 21st Century Skills assessment project at Melbourne  used language analysis technology to analyse how well students were performing at collaborative tasks. As the technology and its implementation improves the idea of testing students in written examinations so they can pack their CVs with good grades is becoming rapidly dated.

 

 

What is Ubiquitous Learning?

There is a lot of talk at the moment about Ubiquitous Learning. But what exactly is it, should we care, and how should it be implemented? This article by Edutech Associates member Nick Fekos explores these questions.

Ubiquitous computing is a model of human computer interaction in which computer processing has been integrated fully into daily activities, and also integrated into objects with which we routinely interact.  A Ubiquitous Learning Environment enables learning at any time, at any place.

Imagine you are a high school physics teacher and you are teaching concepts like gravity, friction, velocity and inertia. In a classic learning environment, you would be in your classroom with your students at a preset school period. But what if you could teach these concepts by taking your students to a soccer game or baseball game –

Origins of UL  

Mark Weiser from the Xerox PARC Lab ‘fathered’ UL more the twenty years ago. He envisioned three computer waves: mainframes which were prevalent at the time, personal desktop computers which were just appearing, and ‘Ubiquitous’ computing (also known as ‘ubicomp’), as the future. This third step is often referred to as reaching a point where the user is not aware of the computer, whatever form it has taken, but focuses only learning and the related materials.

Weiser identified three types of computer devices:

  • Wearable
  • Handheld
  • Interactive Boards

And their main characteristics would be:

  • Helpers/Servants
  • Quite and Invisible
  • User not necessarily aware of their presence, just the interaction
  • Should not demand attention

Key characteristics of Ubiquitous Learning

The main characteristics of ubiquitous learning are: (Chen et al., 2002; Curtis et al., 2002)

  • Permanency: Learning materials are always available unless purposely deleted.
  • Accessibility:  Access from everywhere as personally required
  • Immediacy:  Wherever a student is, he/she can immediately access learning materials.
  • Interactivity: Online collaboration with teachers and/or peers (chat/blogs/forums)
  • Situated instructional Activities: Learning in context (on-site).
  • Adaptability: Getting the right information at the right place for the right student.

Pedagogical Basis of UL

The main pedagogical premise of Ubiquitous Learning is related to ‘situated learning’ (see J. Lave and E. Wenger, 1991) which is a general theory of knowledge acquisition that is based on the notion that ‘true’ learning occurs in the context of real life activities. In contrast, formal classroom learning implies knowledge abstraction and decontextualization. This abstraction may not be such a problem, but learning in context (as illustrated at the beginning of the article) can certainly improve learning (as does engaging learners in authentic tasks).

Another pedagogical premise of UL would be collaborative learning (involving social interaction), again undoubtedly improving the learning process.

UL in the Context of Today’s and Tomorrow’s Technology 

Today’s technology seems to be trending towards the actualization of the original UL concepts as described by Mark Weiser.  Two out of the four essential components have already been established, and two are just now appearing as described below.

1. Mobile Devices: powerful, personal mobile communication, processing and storage devices

The proliferation of personal mobile devices, starting from smart mobile phones and currently progressing to tablets, has created an important shift in the direction of innovation as an intrinsic aspect of technology.  Perhaps not yet widely apparent in terms of the potential, but the shift has happened and is irreversible.

We now have a hardware device (a tablet) that is highly ‘personal’, similarly to how personal a mobile phone is, but much more personal than a desktop pc or a laptop.

This computing device, although in exchange for a certain degree of ‘personalization’ compared to mobile phones, is able to powerfully communicate, store, process and access information. It has the mobility and autonomy of a mobile phone, but the processing power and screen of a computer, and so it is much more suitable for broader and more fundamental use. Importantly, it provides the opportunity to move away from an ‘Angry Birds’ takeover of mobile technology

2. Cloud Computing

Cloud platforms can now provide the server side ‘omnipresent’ aspects of UL.  Any system with UL characteristics would have to be fully cloud based so as to ensure reliability and seamless scalability.  If design and development is originally geared towards maximizing efficiency by keeping required cloud power low, ‘lean’ cloud applications can be developed that can then be scaled much more powerfully, thus enabling efficient and robust UL.

Intelligent Personal Agents/Knowledge Objects

Given that we now have widespread truly mobile hardware devices, the next step is intelligent personalized software.

In order to truly implement UL and make ‘real’ use of available hardware and software platforms, the implementation of a personal knowledge object/agent that is ‘intelligent’ is essential.  Using Artificial Intelligence Techniques, this object/agent would take part in a ‘learning network’ (i.e. learn automatically) and would contain a rule base from which to make decisions.

This knowledge object/agent would model the ‘learner’ and would be dynamic.  It would have attached processes that would implement functionality like the ability to interface with other objects like itself, or to other non-intelligent objects (e.g. Word document) or to other systems (e.g. SharePoint) or devices (e.g. a telescope).

This interface functionality would be implemented using standardized file formats and access languages, like HTML5, SQL, RDF and OWL which are available today. The latter two introduce the idea of semantic processing, moving beyond the ‘text’ level into concepts and conceptual organization schemes (Ontologies).  Once we move into the conceptual processing realm (Artificial Intelligence), then very important and exciting functionality, like knowledge inference (reasoning) can be provided, which will mark a true technological turning point.

In summary, this platform independent knowledge object/agent would be the main vehicle for implementing Ubiquitous Learning (as described above) as it would know:

  • Who you are
  • Where you are
  • What device you are using
  • Dynamic skills and ability profile
  • Whether it is night or day
  • What time its
  • Who is near you
  • What devices are near you

Although seemingly too ‘futuristic’, the proliferation of wearable online devices will further the implementation of UL. A good example is Google Glasses (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Glass), with many more on the way.

A specific example

A student carrying a tablet approaches a telescope at school. The telescope ‘broadcasts’ its availability to the tablet which then informs the student of this. If the student agrees, the tablet connects to the telescope and sends information through its intelligent personal learning agent about the student, for example age, class, learning profile, interests, past projects and so on.

The telescope then transfers information that is appropriate for that particular student about itself, what it can do, and perhaps showing on the tablet screen what it is seeing right now. Also, the telescope connects to a cloud astronomy app, or to the Microsoft World Wide telescope for added experience and information.

Finally the telescope proposes a small interactive game from which it can assess the student to see what has been learned or not, and then perhaps contacting a fellow student to join the game online.

One thing is certain: the students would enjoy this, and so learning and assessment will have been achieved. This of course would be part of a broader educational strategy that would include other forms of learning, including classic learning paradigms.

Many of the pieces of the UL puzzle are now starting to fall into place, as summarised in the diagram below:

Please contact nikos@edutechassociates.net for more information.

E-Learning Expo, Athens, Greece

It was a great pleasure to deliver a keynote and participate in E-Learning Expo in Athens.

Media coverage of social unrest in Greece paints a completely one-sided picture. Whilst clearly there is a crisis in Greece, there is also a very strong drive towards progress evidenced by hundreds of teachers and decision makers giving up their Saturday and Sunday to work out how to implement ICT into their schooling systems.

The trade show part of the Expo was as vibrant as any other I’ve seen, and it was wonderful to see so much interest in education technology. The event made prime time news (from 48:50s here : http://www.antenna.gr/webtv/watch?cid=b0_aoe1brh7_i%3d)

With support from the EU and the Greek Government, local entrepreneurs and companies, and multinationals, there are a large number projects now running in the Greek schooling system. But with this comes real dangers, and this was what I addressed in my presentation. The first danger is that teachers can be overwhelmed with multiple initiatives, leading to low levels of implementation. The second is that that running multiple uncordinated projects can lead to chaos and low levels of overall return on investment. So, the main message of my presentation was that there is a need – from MoE level downwards, and school level upwards – for an overall framework to co-ordinate activities and drive out complexity. The main high level goal in Greece – from MoE down – should be to create the overall environment to not only encourage innovations, but to enable innovation to scale in a coordinated way. Without a high level vision and execution framework, widespread innovation – instead of pockets of innovation – is going to take a long time to happen.

The core ideas behind the presentation is covered in “Driving Complextiy Out of Schooling ICT“. Other subjects covered were Cloud computing, and Learning Software 2.0.

Slides from the presentations are here: http://edutechassociates.net/?attachment_id=1456

On the second day, a session on funding innovation highlighted Microsoft’s new Innovation Centre that supports innovative e-learning startups by:

  1. Providing access to free tools through the Bizspark program (www.bizspark.com)
  2. Support in finding partners for startups (e.g. http://athens.startupweekend.org/)
  3. Support for incubating innovative startups
  4. Business and technical training

Thanks to: Elena Zaglaridou; Fotis Draganidis; Teo Milev; Konstantinos Doukas; Dimitris Laios and Isidoros Sideridis from InEdu; Nikitas Kastis; and Dr. Symeon Retalis.

Thanks also to Peter Birch at the EU for an excellent presentaiton on “ICT for learning: the experience of the Lifelong Learning Programme”.

CRADLE Conference, Singapore

On August 1st I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to deliver the Keynote at the CRADLE conference in Singapore.

The presentation contained a mix of material contained in “Schooling at the Speed of Thought” and some of the articles in this blog, especially the Transformation Phase article. Here’s the key points:

ABSTRACT

Introduction

Singapore was one of the first countries in the world to have a national strategy to roll out ICT to all schools. Key challenges addressed in this initiative are to:

  • Prepare students to meet the challenges of the 21st Century
  • Bring about improved learning and increased engagement through the use of ICT
  • Enable more self-directed learning

In summary, the challenge is to make schooling in Singapore even more effective through the use of ICT.

To address this, we need to ask three key questions:

1. How can software accelerate the learning process?

Computers in learning are increasingly being used as tools for creativity rather than as machines to deliver the curriculum. So, with a proliferation of new hardware and software developments, what new creative options are there for learning? How can software help to personalise the learning experience and open up completely new learning opportunities?

2. How can software be used to make better decisions?

How can schooling information and data be leveraged to get maximum impact from precious resources; what do we mean by “intelligent intervention” and why it is so important; how can we empower all stakeholders with information; and how do we drive alignment and performance towards strategic goals?

3. How can Cloud Computing be exploited to cheaply deliver massive-scale, high-quality learning solutions?

We don’t normally expect a school to generate its own electricity – but we have expected our education institutions to be experts at running their own “IT Power Stations”. How can Cloud Computing change this?

With the advent of Cloud Computing, also comes the realistic prospect of providing anytime anywhere learning for all. So how can massive, cheap, and highly available computing services be combined with a range of access technologies and high quality learning content to open up learning opportunities to all citizens of Singapore – and especially those who are in the greatest need of it?

Conclusion

With highly developed infrastructure, talent and innovation, Singapore is in a great position to exploit technology even further. The concluding part of this presentation asked what world-leading innovations and software solutions can be leveraged in Singapore and how we can architect “anytime anywhere learning for all?

For a copy of the presentation please go to: http://bit.ly/pRZUMJ

Thanks to my colleages in Singapore – Horng Shya Chua; Jason Trump; Gerald Tan; Puay San Ng; Eugenia Lim, Lee Boon Keng and the staff and students at Crescent Girls’ School. Thanks also to all those who attended the CRADLE event.

The “Strategic” Phase

This is the third in a series of articles that aim to help schooling systems develop their technology, the first being “Taking the First Steps“ and the second, Taking the Next Steps – The ‘Enhanced’ Phase.

There are four distinct phases through which technology in schooling evolves. The first phase is characterized by access. In the next phase, technology is used to enhance existing processes. The third phase is characterized by using technology strategically. No longer is technology considered a “bolt-on”, or “veneer” on top of existing processes – it now helps drive schooling towards strategic goals such as significantly improved learning and better return on investments. In the final phase, leading edge schools use ICT to transform their operations, using it to personalize learning, integrate deeply with the wider community, run extremely efficient administration systems and develop a culture of performance.

‘Strategic’ Phase Vision

In the Strategic phase, technology becomes a key asset in achieving the strategic goals of an organisation. It’s about restructuring work and processes and doing things differently.

Typically in this phase, the strategic goals of an organisation would include raising standards and improving performance, and technology is a strategic tool for achieving these strategic goals by enabling:

  • Intelligent intervention – data driven support for learners
  • Connected Learning Communities – fully exploiting all available resources, and integration with the local community
  • Monitoring, analysis and planning – data driven decision making
Four phases of ICT implementation

Goals

Intelligent Intervention

This is essentially about using data to make well informed decisions about what students need to learn or do next. To fully personalise the learning experience students should be constantly assessed as they move through their schooling, and their learning pathways should continuously evolve. This relies on highly effective feedback loops and systems which dynamically adapts to the twists and turns of the learning process, and sets challenging learning goals and tasks. This is extremely difficult to do within a paper-based setup, but can be made a lot easier through using IT systems that provide analytic and workflow capabilities.  Intelligent tutoring systems, and managed learning environments, are becoming more commonplace and increasingly sophisticated.

Monitoring, Analysis and Planning

To manage an organisation strategically, as opposed to fighting fires, the ability to monitor performance, analyse results and plan for improvements is fundamental. Organisations wanting to manage strategically must have three key capabilities:

Monitoring

This capability provides managers with the ability to know “what is happening” and “what has happened.” Organisations implement dashboards, scorecards, or reports to monitor their performance. These visual applications allow managers to keep an eye on important indicators of their organisation’s health.

Analysis

This capability provides managers with the ability to know what is happening and why. To analyse performance, organisations implement solutions that are often very interactive in nature and allow managers to investigate the root cause of issues they see in their dashboards, scorecards, or reports.

Planning

This capability provides the organisation with the ability to model what should happen. Organisations develop processes and tools to conduct the essential planning, budgeting, and forecasting exercises. These processes allow managers to align groups and individuals around the metrics that drive the organisation—for instance: “what are our examination result targets?” or “what is our spending versus our revenue?”

Connected Learning Communities

Whilst there may be elements of learning that require independent work, learning only really acquires meaning in a social context, and the most immediate and direct social context for schooling is the local community.

ICT can be used to connect together all those who can make a contribution to students’ learning – e.g. local business, community resources (e.g. museums/libraries), parents and 3rd party learning services. It can connect students to inspiring individuals and inspirational speakers; promote debate and engagement between collaborators in face-to-face or virtual groupings; and provide mentoring opportunities. Connecting stakeholders together in a Connected Learning Community has enormous benefits such as engaging parents more deeply in the learning process, speeding-up processes and improving students’ connections with the outside world. The core of a connected learning community is a portal that can be accessed from anywhere.

Scenarios

Student Access

In the Strategic phase, students have continual access to their own learning devices. These devices need to enable a range of learning scenarios (not just content consumption), be rugged, easy to repair and support, manageable on a network.

Devices should be available to students so they can learn anytime anywhere, access content, learning management and communication and collaboration tools via the Connected Learning Community Portal.

Anytime Anywhere Learning = access to devices + learning services

Having access to their own devices enables students to experience a wide range of learning scenarios:

ICT enables a wide range of learning styles

Classroom

Classrooms need to accommodate an increasingly wide range of learning styles, and equipment needs to be laid out in quite different ways according to the demands of each different learning task, for example:

Different learning tasks require different floorplans

BECTA provided the following guidance to UK schools on different classroom layout options:

Pods – separate circular / hexagonal / octagonal benches with workstations
Hexagonal pods
Advantages
  • No corners with 2 computers, so no dead spots that cannot be used
  • No extra space required for 2 pupils to share a computer
  • Can support collaborative work as users working around ‘one pod’
Pods – squares with computers on two sides only
Square pods
Advantages
  • No corners with 2 computers, so no ‘dead spots’ that cannot be used
  • No extra space required for 2 pupils to share a computer
  • Can support collaborative work as users working around ‘one pod’
Bays built along walls
Bays
Advantages
  • Teacher can more or less see all computer screens from the centre of the room
  • Provides opportunity to use the centre of the room for tables enabling work away from the computer, and to gather groups for discussion
  • Cabling and electrical work is cheaper and easier than ‘pod’ designs as along the room edge.

School

In the Strategic phase, IT has become a strategic asset to schools. With the infrastructure optimised in the Enhanced phase, we now turn our focus on workloads delivered by servers.

The following services are core in the Strategic phase:

  • Optimised Infrastructure – including File and Print, Database Services, Directory Services, Security, Device Management, and Data Protection and Recovery
  • MIS – Management Information Systems
  • Portal
  • Unified Communication
  • Virtualisation – centralizing computing tasks to improve scalability and system performance

These, typically, will be delivered through three layers:

  • On-Premises – the school hosts key functions on their own servers
  • Data Centre/Private Cloud – the Local Education Authority (LEA) delivers services to schools from their servers
  • Public Cloud – the school receives services from the LEA, Ministry of Education and private suppliers from Public Cloud Services
School Server Infrastructure

Portal

The Strategic phase is characterised by the Connected Learning Community, the core of which is a portal that can be accessed from anywhere. For it to be effective it needs to be “role based” i.e. present users with information and tools relevant to their role and to them as individuals. In other words a teacher in the community sees the information relevant to all teachers, their fellow subject specialists, and also information specific to their particular group of students, their particular HR information, and their particular teaching content, tasks, calendar, e-mail etc.

A portal should give students, parents, managers, teachers, their own “spaces” and deliver to them the resources that are important individually to them through a single web page.  It aggregates information from diverse systems into one interface with a single sign-on ID – and organisation-wide search capabilities so that users can access relevant information quickly.  Teaching and administration staff can use the portal to distribute information to students based on their enrolment, classes, security group or other membership criteria, while enabling them to personalise the portal content and customise the layout to suit their needs.

A great Portal reference architecture is Twynham School. Twynham is a 1600+ Secondary school in Christchurch UK, built  a powerful collaboration platform – “Learning Gateway” – which allows students, staff and parents to work efficiently; develop independent and inter-dependence in their learning strategies; and support children in achieving their full potential. Twynham School won the BECTA ICT Excellence Award in 2008 for learning Beyond the Classroom and the schools works with over 400 schools internationally to support the development of their Learning Platforms.

Twynham School Portal Navigation bar

Mike Herrity at Twynham has published a detailed e-book explaining how the Learning Gateway is used: http://bit.ly/qJohiL

Microsoft have also published a full architectural guide explaining how Twynham built their Learning Gateway – http://bit.ly/qORAW5

Enabling many of the functions in the portal are 2 sub-systems – Content Management and Unified Communications & Collaboration.

Content Management Systems (CMS)

When ICT is fully implemented, vast amounts of content gets created.  In order to get maximum efficiencies from ICT, this content needs to be organised and managed in a way that means that people don’t replicate one another’s work.

A content management system in a connected learning community helps education institutions organise and facilitate the collaborative creation of documents and other content. They enable the full life cycle of content – from initial creation to delivery to end users.  CMS comprise document and records management, web content management, forms, search, library systems, curriculum frameworks, curriculum systems, curriculum exemplars and resource assemblers.

Unified Communications (UC) & Collaboration

Today it is typical that people will have multiple contact addresses – direct line phone number; mobile phone number;  e-mail; Instant Messenger; home number; personal mobile number; home e-mail, etc. Unified Communications (UC) takes identity and presence and then has all of these other ways of interacting simply connect up to that.

A single integrated identity can simplify how you find and communicate with others.  One integrated desktop application can provide easy access to all the ways users are likely to want to communicate.  Another key advantage to UC is that in using Voice over IP (VOIP) for telephone calls, it has the potential to significantly reduce communication costs.

UC enables students, teachers, parents and other stakeholders to confer and consult in the way that suits their work style by switching seamlessly between videoconferencing, telephone, email and instant messaging.

Also within UC are task and calendaring functions.

Data Driven Decision Making

In a schooling system, data driven decision making is supported by a huge number of information systems.  Any process that involves the creation and transmission of information can be considered an information system – even informal discussions.

The collective term for the information systems in schooling is Management Information Systems (MIS).

Functions Supported by an MIS

The functions that a Management Information System need to support are:

Improving Student Performance Progression Management
Learning Management Intelligent Intervention
Parents Engagement In Learning Better Teaching Decisions
Make Better Management Decisions Monitor, Analyse and Plan
Tactical Decision Making Data Visualisation
Manage Resources More Effectively Planning and budgeting
Financial Control Asset Control
Reporting Accountability and Alignment
Performance and Assessment Data KPIs, Scorecards, Dashboards and Reports
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) Drive Administrative Efficiencies
Planning Organising
Controlling Co-ordinating
Management Information Systems – Functional Architecture

In this context, an information system really means an organised hierarchy of information sub-systems. Management Information System (MIS) is a term used as a container for all of the electronic information systems within a schooling system.  These systems vary in size, scope and capability, from packages that are implemented in relatively small organisations to cover student records alone, to enterprise-wide solutions that aim to cover most aspects of running large multi-site organisations.

A MIS includes the following sub-systems:

  • Decision Support Systems (DSS)
    • Finance
    • Performance Management
    • HR
    • Student Relationship Management (SRM)
    • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
    • Analytics and Business Intelligence (BI)
    • Timetabling
  • Student Information Systems (SIS)
    • Integrated Student Record
    • Electronic grade book
    • Attendance Management
    • Automated workflows
    • E-Forms
  • Learning Platform
    • Learning Management Systems (LMS)
    • Managed Learning Environment (MLE)
    • Virtual Learning Environments (VLE)
    • Content Management Systems (CMS)

For a full description, see Schooling at the Speed of Thought, Chapter 6, Managing Information.

Local Education Authority

In the Strategic Phase, the goal of service provision at Local Education Authority level is to deliver those services which when aggregated improve in quality and price.

Local Education Authorities can use their scale to negotiate the best prices for content, communication, support services etc. Many of the services requiring the most maintenance and management – e.g. learning services, system management, business intelligence, and administrative tasks such as payroll and HR, are delivered more cost effectively from a centralised point.  Other benefits include the use of greater amounts of data for decision making – an LEA with data from many schools can perceive more patterns than a single school with its limited pool of data.

Many LEA services are delivered through data centres built on top of optimised infrastructures. Increasingly data centres will become Private Clouds – essentially Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) within the data centre. The large scale and pay-as-you-go economics of Public Clouds aren’t available in typical Private Clouds. However, Private Clouds offer at least some of the scalability and elasticity benefits of Public Cloud but with additional control and customisation. Increasingly many of these services will be also be delivered from Public Clouds.

The services delivered by the LEA can be split into two main categories:

  • Schooling Enterprise Services
    • Monitoring, Analysis and Planning
    • Intelligent Intervention
    • Student Relationship Management
    • Administrative Processes
    • Operations
  • E-Learning Services
Local Education Authority Schooling Enterprise Architecture (SEA)

Ministry of Education

Some of the Schooling Enterprise Services delivered by LEAs to their schools and communities could be provided at National level from the Central Ministry of Education. Services such as strategy, policy, budgets, and curriculum are usually set and delegated at national level.

Computing functions at Ministry of Education level can be grouped into three main categories:

  • Internal departments – Curriculum, Policy, Research etc.
  • Regional Services – Resources and BI
  • National Services – Content (information services) and infrastructure – e.g. national level schooling enterprise internet backbone
Ministry of Education perspective

One of the most important functions at Ministry level is to have a “clear line of sight” of the performance of the schooling system. This enables BI analysis and for resources to then be focussed on the areas where they will have most impact.

Fitts and Aziza (Joey Fitts and Bruno Aziza, 2008) talk of a “line of sight” from strategic to operational to tactical decisions as the discipline that drives aligned execution. “Line of sight” means clear visibility of goals, and progress towards them at executive (strategic), management (operational), employees (tactical) levels.

“Clear line of sight” is about performance metric alignment across organisational layers. This can be thought of as an organisation chart for performance metrics, indicating how the various levels of the organisation’s performance metrics relate to one another. At school level, classroom teacher’s metrics roll up to their Head of Department, which in turn roll up to Deputy Principals, which in turn roll up to the Principal. In turn, and depending on the mode of operations, performance metrics for Principals should roll up to those of Local Authority Directors, which in turn finally roll up to the Ministry of Education.

Clear Line of Sight enables strategic allignment

Technology Building Blocks

Finally, pulling these building blocks together we get the following high level architecture:

Technology Building Blocks for Strategic Phase

Conclusion

Moving from the Enhanced Phase to the Strategic Phase is as much about management as ICT. In this phase, the technology is used a tool for getting better allignement between strategy set at MoE level to exectution at school level. At all levels, there are strategic decisions that ICT can help monitor, analyse, plan and execute.

In the next article in this series, we will explore the final phase – Transformation.

Taking the Next Steps – the “Enhanced” Phase

This is the second in a series of articles that aim to help schooling systems develop their technology, the first being “Taking the First Steps“.

There are four distinct phases through which technology in schooling evolves. The first phase is characterized by access. In this phase, giving students and teachers access to computers to improve some aspects of lesson delivery and administration is the main focus. In the next phase, technology is used to enhance existing processes. It’s about providing content and tools to increase learning, organising communications and starting to manage data and information. The third phase is characterized by using technology strategically. No longer is technology considered a “bolt-on”, or “veneer” on top of existing processes – it now helps drive schooling towards strategic goals such as significantly improved learning and better return on investments. In the final phase, leading edge schools use ICT to transform their operations, using it to personalize learning, integrate deeply with the wider community, run extremely efficient administration systems and develop a culture of performance.

Four phases of ICT development in schooling

The “Enhanced” Phase

Goals

The goals of the Enhance Phase of ICT development are to:

  • Increase learning
  • Improve communications with parents
  • Manage data and information

Increasing Learning

In this phase, computers are available in several areas of the school, some in labs, and others scattered in classrooms and other learning spaces. These computers are connected together in a network and key resources, such as content, printers, scanners, and users are managed centrally.

Students use computers as a learning tool – e.g., using multimedia learning packages; solving maths problems; researching; reading from e-books; developing writing skills; learning languages; and developing 21st Century skills.

Curriculum Area Examples

Language
Hyperlinks allow more creativity in narrative construction
  • Word structure and spelling
    • A great example of how to help children remember how to spell individual words is the “Look Cover Write and Check” web application on the Ambleside School site   
  • Composing and presenting
  • Learning foreign languages
    • Bilingual audio books combine rich graphics with spoken word for foreign language learning. Award winning Mantra Lingua have combined traditional print media with a “talking pen”.    
Mathematics
Making visualisations easy in Mathematics
  • Learning from feedback
    • Word processing software now enables students to “word process” maths to clearly show complex formulae, along with 2d and 3d graphs, making it easier to communicate their thinking and get feedback on it. Check out the free Math add-in for Word and OneNote.
  • Creating patterns
    • Students can use Logo software to draw patterns students quickly learn the importance of expressing their commands unambiguously and in the correct order
  •  Seeing connections
    • A software Graphing Calculator can be a great tool for teaching maths when used with a data projector for whole class teaching, or better still when given to students to use.  A lesson can be built up and stored then each stage “replayed”. Check out the free Microsoft Math 4.0 
  • Exploring data
    • Students can design surveys, such as the heights of their peers and teachers, and enter the data into a spreadsheet to learn about averages and correlations.
Science
 
  • Assisting observation
    • Electronic telescopes enable pupils to collect images from different locations on Earth and at different times of the day. Telescope sites also provide learning resources and galleries of images.  
  • Recording and measuring
    • USB microscopes and data loggers can be used in the classroom to observe, record results, plot graphs and analyse data. E.g. see this data logging programme from Kent which explores topics such as: most effective sunglasses; which surface will slow down the car? Who has the hottest hands; where is the noisiest place in school?
  • Providing models or demonstrations
    • Simulating experiments can enable students to experiment with phenomena that may be too slow, too fast, too dangerous or too expensive to experience in school. Check out Crocodile Clips’ Yenka for example.

An essential consideration is accessibility for all. For students with some disabilities, technology can open up new windows of learning opportunities. For a full explanation go to: http://edutechassociates.net/2011/03/08/accessibility/

A fantastic resource exploring different ways in which ICT can be used across the curriculum can be found here: http://archive.naace.co.uk/direct2u/indexbysubject.html

Additionally, worksheets with practical examples and screenshots explaining how to use ICT in Primary Schools are available here

Other resources developed for classroom use by teachers, for teachers can be found in the Teachers Toolbox and here.   

Managing Learning Content

When ICT is implemented, lots of content gets created.  In order to get maximum efficiencies from ICT, this content needs to be organised and managed in a way that means that people don’t replicate one another’s work.

At school level, content can be managed through a file sharing system on a server on a network. For example, Windows Server 2008 enables files to be centrally shared and managed. The “Shared Folders” feature enables file-shares to be created and permissions set, which will allow students and teachers to store their work.

At a more advanced level, content can be better managed using a portal such as SharePoint Server 2010. Combining content management with collaboration tools and powerful search, SharePoint makes information easy to find, share, and use.

Beyond the school, regions or even whole countries are beginning to provide organised learning content, as explored in the articles on SULINET and managing learning content.

In Brazil, for example, Educopedia is a learning content portal run by the City of Rio. Users are presented with a list of all of the elementary and middle school grades and under each of these they can access all the school curricula for each discipline.

Educopedia - learning content access made easy

For example, a teacher can click on a subject area link, and see a content index consisting of the school year course plan which contains the lessons and related curriculum standards.

Educopedia - making it easy to select resources related to curriculum standards

From there, they can download lesson plans with suggestions on how to make the best use of the resource materials available; a list of the skills and competences addressed; a PowerPoint presentation for classroom use; and a quiz with questions about the class content.

Educopedia - access to learning tools made easy

Educopedia also provides users with communication and collaboration functions through live@edu, which provides a mechanism for user authentication.

Parent Connection

The usual way in which schools communicate directly with parents is via “parent evenings” – many parents end up seeing a teacher once or twice a year for 5 minutes. Hardly enough time to say “hello” and “goodbye”. 

Research demonstrates that active parental involvement in educational activities delivers a positive impact on attainment. Technology can be used to connect parents with information regarding the educational progress of their child, and a range of supplemental activities in which the parent can support the learning process. For example, ICT can be used to:

  • Enable parents and teachers to communicate more frequently with each other
  • Identify problems and issues at an early stage and involve parents in rectifying them
  • Give parents the tools to support learning activities at home
  • Provide parents with immediate news about the school and its activities.

At a basic level, ICT can contribute:

  • E-mail news bulletins
  • Digital learning resources to assist the student with homework
  • Educational resources for parents, such as behavioural management guidance
  • Alerts on critical issues such as lack of attendance, dropping attainment levels, behavioural issues, etc
Miami Dade - enabling parents to see how their children are progressing and help with work at home
Miami Dade - essential information about children's school day made easily accessible
Managing Data and Information

Teacher Administrative Tasks

ICT can really help with reducing the time spent on teacher’s basic administrative tasks including:

  • Lesson plans and materials
  • Producing class lists
  • Keeping and filing records
  • Analyses of attendance and results
  • Writing reports
  • Ordering supplies and equipment.
  • Producing formal minutes of meetings
  • Submitting bids 

In Latvia, the Ministry of Education were able to achieve time savings of 30% by deploying SharePoint Server across 100 schools. This allowed them to automate routine grading tasks and reporting, delivering significant time savings for teachers. 

For a report on how ICT helped UK teachers reduce administrative burdens, click here.

Managing Baseline Administrative Data and Information

Whilst different countries have different mandatory requirements for essential data that they expect schools provide, UNESCO (2003) has set out a recommended specification of essential data to collect at the national level from each education establishment.

Data on students Data on teachers and other categories of personnel
Distribution by grade, gender and age Distribution of teachers by level of qualification and certification, by grade and by gender
Distribution of repeaters by gender and grade Distribution of teachers by age and by gender
Number of learners attending double-shift classes by grade. Number of teachers working double shifts
Data on education establishments Number of teachers in multi-grade classes
Number of classrooms Number of non-teaching personnel by categories, age and gender.
Places available in schools Distribution of teachers by level of qualification and certification, by grade and by gender
Education expenditures Distribution of teachers by age and by gender
The budget as part of the overall State budget (budget voted and budget disbursed) broken down by level Number of teachers working double shifts
The expenditures at the local level, of private organizations by level Number of teachers in multi-grade classes

Student Information Systems (SIS)

Schools need to keep records on their students which should, at the very least, include: 

  • Personal – name; address; photo; family contacts
  • Performance – actual and predicted grades; teachers comments
  • Attendance – by day, by lesson, over time
  • Risk profile – learning, social, medical and demographic
  • Intervention history – what assistance and guidance has been given to the student
  • Timetable

Scenarios

Student Access

Providing students with their own laptops for use at home has proven learning impact

A study by the UK Institute of Fiscal Studies in 2009, shows that “learners who use a computer at home for schoolwork could get as much as ½ a grade to their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) examination results and as much as a term on to their GCSE learning”. No surprise then to see the explosion of national level projects for the wide-scale introduction of ‘personal learning devices’. However, many of these schemes wrongly focus on a ‘blanket’ approach of providing huge numbers of cheap portable PC’s. Unfortunately most of these projects have been driven by getting the most computers for the lowest price, rather than focusing on getting the right device for the learning that needs to be done.

To get the best return on investment a device for students should have the following features:

  • Provide a platform for use of the widest range of productivity, creativity, and communication and collaboration tools
  • Result in users acquiring relevant knowledge and employability skills  
  • Have a display of around 13 to 15 inches
  • Have software that makes learning accessible to all, including those with disabilities
  • Capable of being managed remotely and as part of a managed network
  • Sharable with other users  
  • Battery life should exceed 3 hours under full CPU load with full screen brightness
  • Appropriate ports to allow them to connect to other equipment
  • ·Wireless networking capability
  • Be self-contained and work without needing high levels of internet access once set up
  • Protected from viruses, spyware, and other malicious software
  • Hard Drive encryption for security

One of the advantages of giving students a PC – as opposed to lower specification devices – is that they can share them with family and friends, amplifying the effects of the investment. For example, Mouse Mischief enables students to share applications extending the use of the device.

Classroom

Ideally, students will be able to bring their laptops into the school and make use of them within a managed network, but this takes time, so a more likely scenario in the Enhanced phase is that students use shared computer resources at school. In this phase, there is likely to be an ICT suite with enough computers to take at least 30 children sharing a computer in pairs. Computers will also be found in other learning spaces in the school to support the kind of learning scenarios mentioned above. The computers that were originally used in the school can now be distributed throughout the school, some of which can be used as Thin Clients networked to the Server and/or Windows Multipoint Server.

Of course, computers aren’t the only hardware devices used in the classroom. Digital cameras; video cameras; voting devices; interactive whiteboard tools; robotic kits; digital microscopes; and projectors all have a role to play in the learning process in the Enhanced phase.

School

With ICT across the school, there is need for an organised network to manage ICT services. Learning content, devices, peripherals, access, administrative processes and users. Connecting with a local authority, state or national level learning content service is crucial, and this has to take place within a secured environment. The school will also need to connect to secure Local Authority services within a Wide Area Network.

An important question in this phase is how to manage e-mail. This can be done “on-premises” using server software such as Exchange Server; as a ‘rented’ service such as Exchange Online; or as a free “commodity” type service such as Office 365 for Education. The answer depends on the amount of resource available to manage the service, and the degree of control that a school wants to have over e-mail policy. Increasingly email – along with services such as calendaring and personal file storage – are commodity services that institutions are happy to see moving into the Cloud.

School managed network conceptual design

For a useful document from BECTA that sets out key considerations for school ICT network design, click here.

 Another useful document that considers the full range of devices that a school in the Enhanced phase could use is the Computer Sustainability Toolkit.

Local Authority – MoE

With a system in place for collecting baseline administrative data, there now needs to be a continuous flow of information between schools, the Local Authority and Ministry of Education with budget allocations flowing downwards and reporting on performance flowing upwards. This has to be achieved through a Wide Area Network to ensure the secure transfer of data. Several technologies are available for this including “Leased Line”, “Circuit Switching”, “Packet Switching” and “Virtual Private Networks”.

Wide Area Network between school and "upstream" authorities

As we saw above, the Local Education Authority of Rio City also provides learning content and collaboration services to schools. These can be delivered as a web service from a data centre.

Technical Requirements

The foundation on which the entire schooling architecture is built is called “Optimised Infrastructure”. This provides a scalable, secure platform which can be built on to provide a growing number of services.

Key capabilities of an Optimised Infrastructure are:

Security

The key component without which none of this will work is stringent security and networking protocols. This is needed to protect students and employees from unauthorised users, viruses and unsuitable content. Security systems should automatically identify threats and respond automatically.

Local Area Network (LAN)

Computers need to be connected to a LAN – wired and/or wireless – with a server that controls the network, stores files and enables printing. A classroom might have just a few computers that all the students take turns using, so it’s important that an educational computer be configured just the way the teacher wants.  The teacher shouldn’t have to waste valuable teaching time troubleshooting.  Each PC in a LAN needs to be “locked down” and reset easily. 

Data Protection and Recovery

As ICT becomes increasingly “mission critical”, it’s important to manage data so it can be rapidly recovered.  When infrastructure is fully optimised, recovering information should be as simple as browsing the network. Backup devices are now very cheap to buy and manage, and will automatically run in the background.

Identity and Access management

Identity and Access Management can help organisations centrally manage user information and access rights. It allows administrators to manage each student, teacher, administrator individually by setting their role, access and functional level.  This enables individual users to have information and software tools that are specific to their individual requirements – a personalised IT service.  A directory service holds each user account and its access functions and allows the user to access various systems using the same set of credentials. Authentication can be by various mechanisms such as logon credentials, smartcards, and biometrics.

Desktop, Server and Device management

In an optimised infrastructure, those responsible for the management of networks have the tools to control their IT infrastructure; easing operations; reducing troubleshooting time; controlling quota; password re-setting; provisioning users; improving planning capabilities; and managing mobile devices.   

Integration and Interoperability

A key goal of optimising infrastructure is to integrate different systems so they can exchange data. The advantage of this is that data only has to be inputted once, and then used by multiple systems saving time and money.  Ideally data in Student Information Systems, Teacher Administration and Accounting Packages will interoperate, saving teachers and administration staff from having to re-key in data every time they wanted to update records or produce reports. 

Database Services

Databases are the “engines” of information management. They are used to capture, store, analyse and interpret a wide variety of information, and deliver this information to a range of different applications and devices including servers, desktops and mobile systems. Data includes text, numbers, pictures, video streams, audio content, and geo-spatial information. Not only do databases store data but they interpret, index and enable it to be searched.  

Technical Support

Schooling system networks need to be reliable to encourage user confidence and to support learning and teaching, as well as school management and administration.  This requires access to technical support, which can come from technicians within the school, or from another provider, or sometimes from students themselves. In an optimised infrastructure, schooling systems need to move away from a reactive system in which incidents are dealt with only as they arise. Instead they need to create a more pro-active system where technical support prevents problems occurring and ensures that individual ICT systems are robust and reliable and available when required.

Architecture

Bringing all this together the overall architectural model for a school in the “Enhanced” phase looks like this:  

Schooling Technical Architecture - essential building blocks

Conclusion

It’s often harder to take the second step than the first. Indeed, moving from PCs in a single location to an integrated and managed network has many challenges. The advantages well outweigh the challenges because by developing the school’s technology in this way, students gain access to a wider range of learning opportunities, develop more skills and knowledge. Teachers can use ICT to engage better with students and their parents, and school administration can improve enabling more effective use of resources.

In the next article in this series, we will explore the next phase – moving from using ICT to enhance existing operations to using ICT to drive strategic change.   

Brazil – Moving Towards World Class Education

 

I had never considered air conditioning such an important classroom technology until I visited Escola Municipal Engenheiro Gastão Rangel in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. The sweltering heat, sparseness of the facilities, 30 teachers between 1000 students and overcrowded classrooms make this a brutal and challenging environment to teach and learn in. Within these tough conditions, however, are clear signs of deep and meaningful progress.

 

On the stage of the small assembly hall of the school stands Rafael Parente – a rare example of an Education Technology visionary who can actually “walk the talk”. Rafael works as Deputy Chancellor in charge of strategic projects in Rio’s Municipal Department of Education, where he developed Educopedia – a portal for lessons and content. Educopedia has 32 digital lessons for each curriculum area – one lesson for each week of the year – and provides opportunities for teacher-lead and independent learning. The Rio MoE are now in the midst of acquiring 100k netbooks for students’ use, and projectors, speakers and Wi-Fi connections in more than 400 classrooms so that Educopedia’s lessons can be projected by teachers.

The first phase of the Educopedia project took place with a large group of pilot schools between September and December 2010, and the feedback was very positive. The task for Rafael now is to win over the teachers in all of Rio’s schools. This means visiting as many schools as he possibly can to directly persuade the teachers to use Educopedia in their lessons. As in most Brazilian public schools, air conditioning, electricity, security and connectivity are all high priorities, so Rafael’s task is far from easy.  

What’s happening in Rio is indicative of what is happening across Brazil. There are an increasing number of pockets of innovation across the country, fueled by a growing acceptance for the need to modernize, and sustained support for ICT from the Federal and State Governments.

Brazil’s schooling system has benefited from sustained Government education reform over the past 15 years. According to “Achieving World Class Education in Brazil”, published by the World Bank in December 2010, the 2009 PISA results show substantial progress in education in Brazil. For example, since 2000 students have effectively gained a full academic year of Maths mastery. A key contributory factor to this progress is the increased use of data. A comprehensive index of school performance called IDEB (Indice de Desenvolvimento da Educacao Basica) is now used across the country. With an IDEB score for all but the smallest of Brazil’s 175,000 primary and secondary schools, 5,000-plus municipal school systems, 26 state systems and the federal district systems – every single segment of the Brazilian education system can benchmark how well its students are learning and how efficiently its school or school system is performing. Few other large federal countries in the world have achieved this.

However, Brazil still trails the OECD PISA average so there are no grounds for complacency. In order to sustain progress, Brazil needs to modernize further still – and with 50m in education, modernizing Brazil’s schooling system represents one of the biggest education challenges on the planet.

Taking a direct and comprehensive approach to modernising Brazilian public schools is Planeta Educacao – the education arm of Vitae Futurekids. With 900 staff and headquarters in Sao Paulo, Planeta Educacao recognizes the interconnectedness of everything in schooling systems. Roberta Bento, Vice President, Planeta Educação is a passionate believer in Brazil’s public schools – “Our programmes comprise a series of effective actions that involve students, directors, technicians, teachers and parents, promoting real changes in education. Our goal is the improvement in the performance of the student”. To that end, Planeta Educacao supply a total and integrated set of schooling services – infrastructure, technology (including products such as Office for Kids), programs and learning systems.

Other challenges that Brazil face are extreme distances and difficult-to-reach towns and villages. However, the Roberto Marinho Foundation – partners in the Educopedia project – has educated more than five million young people through high quality courses delivered through a combination of the television network, excellent books and trained teachers. Through the Telecurso project teachers were able to use satellite technology to interact with classrooms in the Amazon Forest.

In Pernambuco – in the north-east of the country – a network of schools called Procentro initiated in 2001 by Marcos Magalhães, president of electronics firm, Philips do Brasil, is proving that Public Private Partnerships can work in Brazil. Procentro has an annual dropout rate of 2%, much lower than the 17%  average for Pernambuco’s regular state schools. Click here for details.  

To underline the growing importance of ICT in the Brazilian Schooling System, Brazil has developed its own version of BETT. This year, Interdidatica will attract approximately 15k people to its tradeshow and 2.5k paying customers to its forum.

This year the theme of Interdidatica is “Innovation” – totally appropriate in a country with a strong tradition of engineering and innovation, e.g. aerospace giant Embraer. According to the World Bank, literally thousands of creative new programs and policies are being tried out at this moment across Brazil by dynamic, results-oriented secretaries of education. Few other countries in the world have the scale, scope and creativity of policy action that can be seen today in Brazil.

An inspiring example of innovation is Nave in Rio – a new high tech high school built out of a PPP between a Oi Futuro Fnd the State Government of Rio, aiming to prepare young people for careers in digital, entertainment and creative industries.

   

Not surprisingly, Brazil has a growing Education Technology Industry and a spectrum of innovative companies serve a growing education market. Gestar, for example, a Sao Paulo firm who developed the concept of “SRM” – Student Relationship Management built on CRM.

Then there is Grupo Positivo, the tenth largest computer manufacturer in the world who focus on education. They produce education software; run education portals; provide teacher training and educational and technical support for partner schools. Positivo even has its own university near its headquarters in Curitiba.

A significant success story coming out of Brazil is CDI – the Centre for Digital Inclusion founded by Rodrigo Baggio.  Brazil’s first campaign for donated computers was founded by Baggio, who then opened the first “Information Technology and Citizens Rights School” (ITCRS) in Dona Marta, a slum area in Rio De Janeiro. From these beginnings CDI grew to provide access to ICT to 1.3 million people 13 countries.

Right at the heart of ICT innovation in Brazil and with a string of successful implementations is Microsoft Brazil’s Education team, lead by Emilio Munaro. Working with all the major players, and innovative customers such as Instituto Ayrton Senna, SENAC, SENAI, SESC, Anhanguera, FIA, USP, Porto Seguro, Colégio São Luis, Microsoft is pushing the boundaries of using technology for maximum effectiveness in education helping deliver increasingly personalized learning services.

A concern raised by the World Bank in Achieving World Class Education in Brazil is that education spending is outpacing results. Brazil spends more on education than Mexico, Chile, India and Indonesia, which have similar demographic profiles. This means that there is a lot of scope for increased effectiveness from spending, and ICT, of  course, can play a major role in this.

With the advent of Cloud computing, the prospect of providing anytime anywhere learning for all is becoming realistic. It’s now time to consider how massive, cheap, and highly available computing services can be combined with a range of access technologies and high quality learning content, to open up learning opportunities for those in Brazil who are in the greatest need of it. Proof that access to ICT works for the poorest in society comes from some of CDIs case studies. With the prospect of the 2016 Olympics and the World Cup going to Rio; the discovery of oil off the coast of Brazil; a booming economy; and determined and innovative people pushing hard; there is every reason to believe that the next decade will see Brazil make significant progress towards achieving world class education for all.

The 3 Dimensions of Learning Software 2.0

When the telescope was first invented it first gave us a better view of the universe, then it gave rise to a complete new science and completely changed the way we think. The same will probably be said of software for learning. Like the telescope, the first generation of learning software was about representing the world in ever clearer ways. Like the new science that followed the telescope, we are now beginning to see a second generation of learning software which enables learners to construct their own models of the universe.

The clear trend is that learning content is moving from the book paradigm to that of social construct. New hardware and software developments, along with new understandings about learning itself, are opening up some wonderful creative options for learning software. So what then are the principles that we should consider when thinking about new learning software?

1. Make Learning Immersive

The first principle of making learning immersive, therefore, is that Creation Trumps Consumption. Let’s illustrate this with some examples:

Imagine you were learning about the Elements in Chemistry. What do you think would lead to you learn more – 1. Using a software package that illustrates the Elements, and shows what the content provider knows or 2. developing content to explain what you know about the Elements to other people?

Most would agree that you would learn more from 2. because this pushes you to do much more than merely consume what someone else has done for you.

New possibilities for content creation are rapidly evolving. Take drawing and painting, for example. Exploiting large multitouch screen technology to create pictures using Corel Paint it touch or Art rage – or using a pen to work with Photoshop on a Tablet PC – are examples of extending traditional creative skills. 

Mind-mapping, considered by many as a core creative technique, is made a lot more productive when you can manipulate the components easily – something that’s difficult to do on paper. MindV not only enables virtual brainstorming but brings in elements such as video, which takes the technique way beyond what was previously possible. For more technically orientated mind-mapping, Visio enables mind-maps to be converted into a range of technical and business objects.

And how can new development extend writing? Here’s a great example of how a student doctor has transformed hand written notes into text using OneNote, and then developed a mindmap. The Tablet PC offers a terrific ‘sandbox’ for ideation, and creative sketching and inking is great for developing thoughts. InkSeine, for example, is a prototype that can be used as an ink-based search and multimedia notebook tool.  

“Surface” applications open up a vast range of creative possibilities for music making – e.g. take a look at Touch Tones.

Digital games can improve learning through co-construction, collaboration, communication and creativity. Again, creation trumps consumption though. Imagine you were given the task of learning about random numbers – you could play this random number generator game, but you’d learn much more through building a game that generated random numbers, using Excel perhaps. For entry level game creation, take a look at this wonderful collection of games which were built using just PowerPoint. A good example of a game building environment for children is Scratch, and Kodu takes gaming to the next level, enabling children to design games that can be run on the X-Box.

Learning Software 2.0 will have increasingly natural interfaces. Voice, pen, touch, gesture, physical movement etc. are all becoming common ways to work with ICT.

We experience the world in high definition sound and vision, so when building models of the world, learners expect high degrees of realism, including 3D graphics. Texas Instrument’s 3D projection DLP chip and 3D content from the likes of Designmate is bringing affordable 3D learning experiences into the classroom. 3D visualisation tools make complex analysis easier – this example, shows how 3D movements can be tracked and visualised.

Simulation is another area where progress is happening quickly. For example, look at this “Animated Laws of Physics” application. One company specialising in simulation software is Crocodile Clips, and their Yenka product range fully exploits 3D modelling, as does the Microsoft Math

Another key feature of Learning Software 2.0 is that it engages all learning styles – Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic.  

Logo has long been used to connect computers to “floor robots”, so its great to see Focus Educational’s award winning “BeeBot” breathing new life into this area, and engaging all learning styles in the process. BeeBot supports the teaching of literacy, numeracy and sequencing skills through on-screen simulation and uses child friendly 3D software and fun-to-use robots.

Award winning Mantra Lingua not only has a wonderful set of bilingual audio books – like this one – that combine rich graphics with spoken word for foreign language learning, but they have also combined traditional print media with a “talking pen”, combining visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning styles.

Addressing auditory learning styles is Speech Recognition in Windows 7. Whilst voice can be recorded directly into OneNote and PowerPoint, the latter now enables users to turn a slide deck into a narrated video.

So how can we use learning software to help develop children’s motor skills or their spatial intelligence? In this example, Bing Maps is being used with Kinect to combine kinaesthic and auditory learning styles. 

The use of, and ability to create and customise, virtual characters – avatars – will be a key ingredient in the next generation of learning software. An award winning application for foreign language learning is EMAS UK’s Talking Tutor which uses avatars to translate and speak back written text. Another award winning web service that exploits avatars is Mylo.  

Also expect to see more software solutions that exploit gyroscopic motion and location aware computing.

2. Collaborative Learning Experiences

Learning is a social construct and children already widely exploit social networking, mobile telephony, Instant Messaging and multi-user gaming outside school.

Within the classroom context IWBs such as the The ActivBoard 500 Pro series are enabling some great learning experiences.  

Interactive Classroom extends the traditional teacher to student model, and opens up possibilities for students to lead the learning too. Churchend and Torfaen Schools provide good examples of how Surface can be exploited for classroom based collaborative learning.

However, the promise of virtual collaborative learning beyond the classroom is rapidly taking off too.  

Online tutoring, homework help, and managed learning – e.g. tutor.com; Cramster.com and mymaths.co.uk, are examples of this.

A great example of an online learning community is this community generated music tuition.  

Another simple but powerful idea is this online shared-note software from Clever Software. Taking this a step further, OneNote enables collaboration on pages that can contain a full range of media from hand-written text to video – OneNote now also synchronises to SkyDrive opening up a world of possibilities for collaboration beyond the classroom.

Cloud technologies will accelerate the growth of solutions in this area. For example, Office 365 for Education – with tools such as Lync – will greatly extend the collaboration capabilities of Office.

3. Intelligent Intervention

So innovation is flourishing in two of our three dimensions – making learning immersive and collaborative. The less sexy, but vital ingredient, which is yet to be integrated fully into Learning Software 2.0 is Intelligent Intervention – decision support, or automated learning guidance.

Learning software tends to get developed in isolation by competing companies. There are great tools out there for analysing how students are learning, but not much innovation and development in the area of bringing these things together to monitor and report on learning across multiple pieces of learning software. Imagine the following scenario – a child in any one day, plays a game, constructs some e-learning content, gets that content reviewed, uses productivity tools, and collaborates with others outside the school. A lot of learning may have happened, but there isn’t a way yet to automatically track all this learning activity.

The reason this is important is because formal learning should be managed. In schools, it’s not sufficient to just give children access to learning software and hope that learning will happen. Whilst VLEs and MLEs have been around for years, they don’t yet join all the dots.

Therefore, a requirement for Learning Software 2.0 is that it isn’t just implemented in individual packets, but rather as a part of a larger, connected ecosystem. Learning Software 2.0 will need to plug into other systems that enable teachers and/or other software to guide and make decisions about what children need to learn next. For now, though, teachers and children themselves will have to use a mix of methods to capture what has been learned, and make decisions about what needs to be learned next.

There are, however, some interesting developments in this space that are worth exploring. Eportfolios have been around for a very long time, but new developments by the likes of elearningforce are extending what can be done with them. And there’s SRM – CRM for “Student Relationship Management” – take a look at the new lookred video on their homepage to get a good example of CRM enabled data drive decision making.

Parental engagement is proven to have a big positive impact on children’s learning, and schools need to get VLEs and MIS to work together for effective parental engagement. A good example of this is SIMS Learning Gateway. Also, take a look at this example of how software can be used to make regular academic reviews at West Hatch school more effective.

Finally, its great to see one of the biggest challenges in introducing ICT in schooling being tackled – examinations! For years, sceptics have argued that whilst examinations are paper-based, ICT in schooling is a pointless investment. In answer to that, about 6,000 students in Norway recently took exams on their laptops in a trial that could soon be rolled out across the country.

How do You Want to Learn Tomorrow?

We are getting some glimpses of how far we can push learning technology, e.g. 4d learning which uses an immersive environment with 3D content, children can walk through the human body in full 3D. In a realisation of the 4th wall – a science fiction concept – we’re seeing “wall” solutions appear – eg Adobe Interactive Installation and this Music Wall. Other developments, such as this ball-bearing sequencer show how combining two or more simple techniques can produce completely new types of learning experience. 

Thankfully, human beings are capable of more thoughts than there are particles in the universe, so the development of new ways of learning are increasingly limited only by what we can imagine.

Mathematics and Interactive Classroom tools – new free downloads

Last month Microsoft released two new downloads that provide great functionality to Microsoft Office.

Maths add-in for Microsoft Office

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Maths is usually the second most important subject in schools after native language. This free add-on to Word and OneNote enables a range of maths functions including 3d graphing calculations.Available from: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=CA620C50-1A56-49D2-90BD-B2E505B3BF09

image

Microsoft Interactive Classroom

With Interactive Classroom, teachers can deliver presentations directly to student computers via OneNote, and both teachers and students can annotate the presentation with their own personal or shared notes. Users can include Polling Questions in their PowerPoint decks.Available now from: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID=d93f4cb5-e2bb-4543-a3bb-cd6a8ecb42cc

By end of November, these add-ins will be available in the following languages:

Japanese; French; Spanish; Italian; Dutch; German; Chinese – Simplified; Korean; Russian; Brazilian Portuguese; Chinese – Traditional; Swedish; Danish; Finnish; Norwegian; Portuguese

Office in the Cloud – what it means for schools

Cloud based computing is generating a lot of questions in Schooling Technology circles, but what does it really mean? How can it be exploited? What are the potential benefits?

The first thing we need is a definition of Cloud. Cloud based computing is generally thought centrally hosted services that can scale according to demand, with the advantage of significantly reducing costs. This differs from hosted services in as much as its elastic.. ie service levels can grow or shrink in response to varying demand levels.

But what of significantly reducing costs? In any one country there are usually data centres at Ministry, State and Local Education Authority levels. Each data centre will handle workloads that are common to other data centres – eg Student information (SIS) and management information (MIS). In some cases these data centres are used to distribute content, and manage learning. All this is underpinned by core infrastructure, security, identity, system management etc…

In other words, Ministry, state and local authority education departments solve very similar information management and technology problems in isolation, which is expensive and wasteful. It’s quite possible to aggregate the kinds of functions needed at various organisational levels and sell these on as hosted services, enabling individual organisational units to make savings on energy, hardware and platform maintenance costs.

So, the main opportunity behind cloud based services is to centralise datacentre functions, then let individual organisational units choose the services they want from a menu.

There are some early examples of this principal at work. For example, The Kentucky Department of Education just announced they are moving all their students, teachers and staff…more than 700,000 people…to Live@edu that will help them save more than $6.3 million over the next four years.

Live@Edu is known primarily as an e-mail service, but probably one of the most popular features of Live@edu is SkyDrive, which provides 25 gigabytes of cloud based storage for homework, documents, and projects.

Microsoft have also just made publicly available the final versions of the Office Web Apps on SkyDrive in the US, UK, Canada and Ireland. This opens up the exciting prospect of consuming productivity tools as a web-based service.

So what do you do if you want to start to exploit the Cloud in your schooling system?

First, start by exploring Live@Edu. E-mail is often one of the most expensive workloads to run, and the savings that Live@Edu can bring are enormous.

Secondly, look at what workloads are common between different datacentres and see where there could be significant savingsa and improvements in services.

Thirdly, through Private Public Partnerships, move relevant services into hosting envirnonments.

As Cloud offerings evolve, these steps will put you in a good position to exploit them.

We are in the early days of Cloud computing in schooling but the prospect of making huge savings, improving services and increasing effectiveness justifies the excitement we are seeing.