About Anything

The personal blog of Al Stevens. Focus is overrated.

Archive for the ‘Educational Things’ Category

Academic Earth — Lectures from the Best

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Academic Earth says they are “an organization founded with the goal of giving everyone on earth access to a world class education.”

They’ve launched a site with a few hundred lectures from top professors at top universities. Top rated lectures include:  The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877 Yale / History by David W. Blight, Linear Algebra MIT / Mathematics by Gilbert Strang, Game Theory Yale / Economics by Benjamin Polak, Computational Science and Engineering I MIT / Mathematics by Gilbert Strang and Computer Science II: Programming Abstraction Stanford / Engineering and Julie Zelenski.

I’m watching “The Civil War and Reconstruction Era.” …and I love the “dim the lights” feature on the web page, which tunes out all of the page surround.

I hope they succeed. I’d also be happy to see them just keep adding lectures.

Their site is at: www.academicearth.org

Written by Al Stevens

March 25th, 2009 at 10:40 am

Technology in the Classroom — another study finds no value

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I was disappointed to see the results of this study, but not surprised.

The study, Effectiveness of Reading and Mathematics Software Products Findings From Two Student Cohorts, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, reports on student test scores of a second year of use of selected software programs aimed at 1st grade reading, 4th grade reading, 6th grade math, and algebra I. They looked at 10 software products and found that only one had a statistically significant effect. Given that there were 10 chances, that one should also be considered suspect.

Until we really understand the details of human learning we will not be able to build or evaluate effective teaching technology. These broad brushed studies provide such a coarse look at the overall process that we can conclude very little. The study itself ends with a list of caveats that include: “the study preclude direct comparisons of product effects”;  “Because districts and schools volunteered to implement particular products, their characteristics differ and these differences may relate to effectiveness”; “The study design does not rule out the possibility that a product the study finds to be ineffective could be effective if implemented by other districts or schools”.

So why did the Department of Education bother to do it?

It would be much better to spend resources on understanding the learning process with enough rigor to construct educational environments that improve it.

Written by Al Stevens

March 13th, 2009 at 4:53 pm

University of the People announces tuition free online higher ed

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In April 2009, Shai Reshef (pdf bio), Chairman of Cramster is opening a tuition-free, internet-based academic institution.  Called University of the People, the non-profit venture has announced that it will provide universal access to college studies—even in the poorest parts of the world.  According to the press release while tuition is free, UoP plans to charge nominal application and examination fees ($15-$50 and $10-$100 respectively), which may be adjusted on a sliding scale based on the economic situation in the student’s country of origin. The school will be open to any student with access to a computer and Internet connection who can submit a certificate of graduation from secondary school and demonstrate proficiency in English. While they anticipate tens of thousands of students enrolling within the first five years of operation, they will cap enrollment at 300 students in the first semester.

Press release: Blackboards Without Borders

Website: University of the People

Written by Al Stevens

January 28th, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Sloan Consortium reports significant growth in K-12 online learning

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The Sloan Consortium, an association of institutions and organizations committed to quality online education and administered through Babson College and Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering has issued a report that estimates  more than 1 million K-12 students are now taking classes online — a 47% increase from the Sloan Consortium’s original study done two years earlier. Of those students taking classes online the data show that the vast majority (69%) are enrolled at the high school level. The top reasons reported for the importance of online learning are:

  • Meeting the needs of specific groups of students
  • Offering courses not otherwise available at the school
  • Offering Advanced Placement or college-level courses
  • Permitting students who failed a course to take it again
  • Reducing scheduling conflicts for students

The study was conceived and developed by Anthony G. Picciano, Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and Jeff Seaman, Babson College. Funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, it consists of responses from 867 public school district chief administrators representing every region and all 50 states in the country.

Press release: Online Learning Takes Off in K-12 Schools

Report: K–12 Online Learning: A 2008 Follow-up of the Survey of U.S. School District Administrators

Written by Al Stevens

January 28th, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Posted in Educational Things

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Blackboard announces integration with Sakai and Moodle

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From the press release:

Included in Release 9’s openness enhancements are integrations that allow open source and homegrown systems–including the Sakai and Moodle course management systems–to be accessed within the Blackboard platform with a single login. The integrations for Sakai and Moodle, developed in partnership with Syracuse University and Iowa State University, respectively, have been released as open source and join more than 150 free or open source Blackboard Building Blocks(TM) now available to the Blackboard community.

Press release: Blackboard Launches More Open, Flexible Learning Platform Emphasizing Greater Engagement for Students

Written by Al Stevens

January 27th, 2009 at 11:32 am

e-Learning Predictions for 2009

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Lisa Neal Gualtieri, Editor-in-Chief, eLearn Magazine has published Predictions for 2009 from 30+ leaders in eLearning.

Article: Predictions for 2009

Written by Al Stevens

January 20th, 2009 at 8:12 pm

Distance Learning Poised for Growth in US

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Stephen Hoare reporting in The Guardian reports:

State universities and their for-profit counterparts have expanded distance-learning operations massively in the past five years by reaching out to adults in the workplace who want to improve their skills and employability. Now they are poised to offer degree programmes and accelerated-learning courses to newly unemployed adults, many of whom are eligible for government education grants.

Article: Online and on the money

Written by Al Stevens

January 20th, 2009 at 11:13 am

ConnectYard Launches a Hosted Social Learning Service

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ConnectYard, a NJ company founded in 2007,  announced the general availability of the Company’s Web 2.0 social learning service.  From the press release:

The ConnectYard solution leverages social networking to support “better teaching and learning” by helping students expand student-to-student and student-to-faculty connections for collaborating beyond the classroom — which has been shown to be a key component of student persistence.

As described on the company website:

The ConnectYard platform connects students with the academic resources they need to succeed in school. ConnectYard helps students excel in their classes by facilitating the formation of study groups that enhance peer learning and reinforce student-to-student and student-to-faculty connections; recommending potential study partners, tutors and mentors based on ConnectYard’s unique matching engine; and promoting relevant study materials, academic support services, career services, campus events and more.

Press release: ConnectYard Launches a Hosted Social Learning Service on the Facebook(R) Platform

Written by Al Stevens

January 20th, 2009 at 11:05 am

XO Laptaps in Nepal

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Gaia Vince, in an article in Seed Magazine reports on  Open Learning Exchange Nepal, a non-profit organization headed by Rabi Karmacharya that develops curriculum-based content in the Nepali language to run on inter-connected XO laptops made by the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) consortium. At the start of the school year last April, the group began a test run of 200 computers, donated by the Danish IT Society, in two of Nepal’s rural schools. This April, the project is expanding to 15 more schools across five districts, distributing a total of 44,000 laptops.

Article: Nepal: Laptop School

Written by Al Stevens

January 19th, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Guardian Suggests We are at the Dawn of the Cyber Student

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Harriet Swain, in an article in the Guardian reports:

In a single week, the Open University (OU) records about two million downloads from its presence on iTunes U, a source of higher education podcasts and videos freely available on the web. About 87% of these downloads are from outside the UK. …

Thanks to ever more rapid advances in technology, the university experience of undergraduates and academics in 2020 will be radically different from that of their 2008 predecessors. But it will be an experience these predecessors have helped shape, no matter what country they come from.

Article: University Challenge: Dawn of the Cyber Student

Written by Al Stevens

January 19th, 2009 at 1:31 pm