I had a glimpse into the future yesterday. Such a contrast between what is and what could be! Believe it or not, it was the Senate K12 Education Committee meeting on video. It started off with a review of the districts’ technology plans. This past year, the State of Florida administered 4 million tests online. This year, they will do 5 million. The infrastructure is there, more or less.
I did not realize that funding for technology was recently incorporated into the FEFP per student allocation. Thus, the increase is ear marked. Districts are spending on average, 53% of this technology money for infrastructure. Thirty one percent goes for assessments, and six percent for professional development. According to the DOE, this approach is working.
Now for what could be….
Senator Brandes introduced Jeremy Rochelle, the head of the SRI Center for Technology and Learning. He did a ten minute presentation of what online learning could be. SRI has projects in parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties. They use an online learning approach called Sun Bay to teach mathematics. Students are introduced to math concepts using online visualization and simulations. They work through problems using paper and pencil workbooks and periodically go back and review concepts online to cement learning.
Dr. Rochelle summarized the current state of online learning and reviewed the SRI approach. He explained that replicating in-class teaching and learning online does not work well. Students who struggle academically tend not to do well with current online courses. Filming lectures or doing drill and practice as is done in many credit retrieval courses is ineffective. Instead, courses need to be designed afresh to utilize the capability of the Internet in new and innovative ways. SRI research and development teams incorporate the science of learning into their applications. What does this mean?
Cyber learning should be interactive, collaborative, and optimize problem solving. Well, of course in-class learning should be the same. You just cannot take a video of a class in action, however, and expect the online students to learn by example. Dr. Rochelle talked about research into online collaborative learning tools, intensive teacher training, teacher feedback online and helping students become responsible for their own learning.
He emphasized the research in this area is in its infancy. The need to respect the experimental status of this approach is essential. States must choose between buying ‘solutions’ that are static courses vs. opting into research partnerships that work with districts and teachers to effectively implement meaningful online learning. These courses and activities are not static but will evolve over time. He encouraged Florida to combine local course development efforts with national projects to create a synergy that could make Florida a leader in quality online learning.
Just imagine what all that money going into testing could do if it went into learning!
If you would like to watch the video, you can see it here. VIIDEO . Click on the video link for January 21st.