Ed tech hype never takes a break

While we were taking a break from blogging earlier this year, the hype that accompanies K-12 educational technology continued apace. This has left us a bit backlogged in pointing out stories that create unrealistic expectations about the current extent, and future promise, of technology in K-12 schools. In the interest of catching up we’ll note two such stories in this post.

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Six Myths (and Realities) of Online Learning

Online and blended learning are being embraced by many schools and states, as discussed in Evergreen’s recent reports, commissioned by the Foundation for Blended and Online Learning, titled “Why do students choose blended and online schools” and Teaching with Technology: Educators’ Perspectives and Recommendations for Successful Blended Instructional Strategies. Despite the growth of online and blended learning, and even though digital learning has been offered in schools for decades, several myths surrounding its benefits and challenges persist. Most of these myths are understood as being incorrect by educators experienced with digital learning, but the myths persist in the media, and among both advocates and critics. This post attempts to dispel six of the most common misconceptions, adding a dose of reality to each. Read on to see if you’ve heard (or have bought into) any of the following ideas, or feel free to share your own in the comments section below.

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Research vs policy in online learning

For those of us who have been in the K-12 digital learning field for a while, it’s especially useful to get out of the bubble and hear what others think about online and blended learning. Reports from the Brooking Institution are especially valuable because Brookings is centrist, non-partisan, and evidence-based. Although the recent study Online schooling: Who is harmed and who is helped? reviewed literature mostly about post-secondary education, it makes a particularly valuable distinction in the K-12 realm that should be required reading for people who believe that research should drive all policy.

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Education systems still challenged to keep pace with learning innovations

When we began working on our first Keeping Pace report back in 2004, our focus was on exploring the ways in which existing policy and accountability systems in K-12 education were not keeping up with online learning. State funding and accountability mechanisms were out of tune with new schools, creating instances in which good innovative schools were hindered, and other cases in which schools took advantage of loopholes and grey areas in education policy to game the system.

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NCES: 21% of US public schools offer at least one online course

According to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics:

  • During the 2015-16 school year, about 21% of public schools in the United States offered at least one course entirely online.
  • Far more high schools (58%) offered online courses than did middle schools (13%) or elementary schools (3%).
  • A higher percentage of charter schools than traditional public schools offered online courses (29% to 20%).
  • About 45% of very small schools with fewer than 100 students offered online courses, as did a very similar percentage of large schools (enrolling 1,000 students or more). Schools with between 200 and 1,000 students all had lower rates of offering online courses, at about 15%.
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Teachers’ voices

A main goal of our Teaching with Technology study was to ensure that the authentic voices of teachers came through clearly and accurately. We compiled nearly 2,000 text responses to open-ended survey questions, and spoke with just over 50 teachers and administrators. Their stories give life to the promise, successes, and challenges of implementing technology in the classroom.

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“Blended learning” versus teaching with technology

When planning our recent report, Teaching with Technology: Educators’ perspectives and recommendations for successful blended instructional strategies, we debated how much to use the terms “blended learning” and “blended teaching” in the survey, interviews, and report.

The argument for using those terms was that the Foundation for Blended and Online Learning, which commissioned the study, is explicitly interested in blended learning and the most innovative uses of technology in education.

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New report on teachers’ view on ed tech

For our study, Teaching with Technology: Educators’ perspectives and recommendations for successful blended instructional strategies, we surveyed 664 teachers and spoke with more than 50 teachers and administrators, in focus groups at schools, at conferences, and by phone. Teachers represented a range of grade levels and subjects taught, and most were from traditional public schools.

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Back to blogging

We’ve taken a bit of a break from blogging recently—for about the past 15 months in fact. With this post and with the launch of our revised website, we are ending our blogging hiatus. Our plan is to post once per week, and occasionally more often, to help spread news items of interest, comment on developments in the field and new reports, and share our own research and findings. 

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