This ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series features noteworthy stories that speak of need-to-know developments within higher education and K-12 that have the potential to influence, challenge and/or transform traditional education as we know it.
1. Virtual Lectures go Hollywood Style
Video lectures in real-time where students connect to a virtual classroom is not new; live video conferencing for seminar discussions and lectures in higher education has been around for several years, though is becoming more mainstream with the expansion of online courses and lowered cost barriers to the technology. Yet a project at Harvard University—HBX Live, takes the idea of video lectures to a new level. Harvard created a television-style production studio (at an undisclosed cost) as a virtual classroom with carefully designed plans to create “the intimacy and synchronous interaction of Harvard Business School’s famed case study method in a digital environment” (HBX Live). The tag line on the article, ‘The Digital Deck’ on Harvard Business School’s site describing the studio labeled it as “a new approach to online learning” (Hanna).
When scanning the photos of HBX’s studio I was reminded of TED Talk productions with the jumbo screens and sophisticated recording technology that churns out high-quality, polished videos. Yet the difference between TED Talks and HBX Live is the purpose, which for HBX is not to record the lectures for later viewing, but to engage students in a live event.
Participants from around the globe can log in concurrently and join real-time, case-based sessions with HBS faculty who teach from the HBX Live studio, located in the Boston-based facility of public broadcaster WGBH. In the custom-designed studio, a high-resolution video wall mimics the amphitheater-style seating of an HBS classroom, where up to 60 participants are displayed on individual screens simultaneously. In addition, others can audit sessions via an observer model. Sessions are expertly produced using still and roaming cameras—creating the perspective for participants of being in a real classroom, seeing both the faculty member and other students (HBXlive.com).
Insight: On the one hand it’s exciting that an Ivy League school is embracing online learning and experimenting with new ways to overcome barriers of time and place, yet on the other, it’s concerning that a school such as Harvard, considered a leader in higher education, might be setting an expectation for other higher ed institutions that in order to engage students and achieve quality learning in online settings—a high-tech, ultra-expensive studio is the only way to go. Not to mention its premise embraces a traditional method of instruction—the lecture.
- Harvard Launches Virtual Classroom for Students Anywhere, Collin Binkley
- HBX Live
- The Digital Deck, Julia Hann
- HBX Live, First Year Infographic
- When the Only Seat is in Front of the Screen, Carl Straumsheim
2. A Lesson in Technology Integration: Teachers Educate Students—Not Tech
There’s no better example than the disaster with L.A. Unified School District’s (LASUD) iPad program to illustrate all that can go wrong with a poorly thought out technology integration plan. Here’s an example of a school district spending $1.3 billion to put an iPad in the hands of every child in the district, yet with no short or long-term strategy to support teachers (or students) with a plan for integrating the devices into the curriculum or within the traditional methods of learning. There was an inherent expectation of LASUD leadership that by giving an iPad loaded with educational software (provided by Pearson) to students, along with a handful of professional development sessions for teachers, students would be immediately engaged in learning, and learning gains would be significant. Not surprisingly the initiative was a failure. The district (painfully) discovered that it’s good teachers that make learning happen, not technology; and if you have a poor teacher, technology doesn’t make bad teaching better.
What’s disappointing is that a recently published report by American Research Institute summarizing the initiative, missed the point completely (Margolin et al.). Of its 18 pages, teacher involvement and impact was buried on page seven with two (weak) recommendations: 1) “We recommend that the district consider offering training webinars to enable teachers to participate during contractual time at their school” and, 2) “We recommend that the district seek ways to provide access to high-quality digital resources, aligned to standards and curricula.”
Insight: Until education institutions realize that it’s instructors and teachers that support effective learning and successful technology use, little progress will be made integrating ed-tech tools to achieve successful outcomes. This holds true for face-to-face and blended education environments of K-12 and higher education. It also applies to online courses; though a well-designed online course can guide and support learning of a motivated, self-directed student, it’s teacher guidance and involvement that pushes students to think critically and engage with course concepts.
- Evaluation of LAUSD’s Instructional Technology Initiative, American Institutes for Research, Margolin et al.
- L.A. school district demands iPad refund from Apple, Los Angeles Times
- Technology in Classrooms Doesn’t Always Boost Educational Results – OECD Says, Ben Kesling, Wall Street Journal
3. One-Day Ed-Tech Conference—SimplifiED Summit 2015
On October 6th in Los Angeles California, a group of edtech leaders that include Richard Calcutta and Dr. Michelle Weise, are featured at this day-long conference that focuses on educational technology. This summit brings together ed-tech innovators and decision makers in higher education and K-12. The focus is on technological transformation and its opportunity and impact within education. The registration site is at SimplifiED Summit 2015. Use code KVT30 for a discount on the registration fee.
The four key topics:
1. The evolving mobile campus
2. The movement to mass personalization for every student
3. The rise of digital learning resources
4. Integration strategies to implement change effectively