Archive for the ‘Online Education’ Category

The “summer slide” meets the coronavirus…

June 18, 2020

In his 2008 bestseller Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion of an educational “summer slide”.

Referencing a tracking study of Baltimore City Public School students, Gladwell highlighted evidence that students’ standardized test scores in the fall were generally lower than their scores in the prior spring.

His observation: “Between school years, students’ accumulated learning is diminished”.

In other words, there is a statistically significant “forget factor” if learning isn’t reinforced and edged forward with summer enrichment activities (think: summer school, educational camps, field trips, parental tutoring).

The summer slide is most pronounced for poor students who lack summer enrichment opportunities … and for all students in math. 

The black line below illustrates the math score drop-off for typical 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. On average, the typical summer slide in math skills is about 2%.  That is, students are 2% less proficient in math after their summer vacations.

Source: WSJ

To make matters worse, note the red line on the chart … it illustrates the projected drop-off due to this year’s virus-induced school closings.

It’s estimated that students will be about 5% less proficient in math than they were when the schools closed … the combined effect of lesser learning during the schools’ shut-down period and an extended summer slide (with many schools declaring no mas in early June) .

More specifically…


Why do students need a physical classroom?

January 16, 2020

An interesting op-ed in yesterday’s WSJ concludes that 2020 will be “the year the dam breaks for college education in America”.


The author notes  “the rising cost and slowing returns of traditional schooling, coupled with advances in and the growing acceptance of online education

Among the specifics…


You’re not paying attention !

August 24, 2017

Busting students using facial recognition software.


I always walk around the classroom when I teach.

Couple of reasons: it  burns off some nervous energy and it lets me peek at students’ computer screens.

The latter is the the acid test of attentiveness.


If I see one or two students checking email or sports scores, I figure it’s their problem and they move to the front of the queue for cold call questions.

If I see a lot of students “digitally distracted”, I figure that it’s my problem and I’ve got to adjust … e.g. shift out of lecture mode and into discussion mode.

That’s pretty straightforward in the classroom.

But, how to know if students are paying attention when they’re being beamed material online?


In praise of classrooms and “live” professors …

September 4, 2012

Interesting op-ed by a Williams College prof in the WSJ last week touted the perils of online education and benefits of faculty-student interaction …

Most of us in higher education take the long view about the value of what we do.

Sure, students graduate with plenty of facts in their heads. But the transmission of information is merely the starting point, a critical tool through which we engage the higher faculties of the mind.

What really matters is the set of deeper abilities — to write effectively, argue persuasively, solve problems creatively, adapt and learn independently — that students develop while in college and use for the rest of their lives.

Which educational inputs best predict progress in these deeper aspects of student learning?

By far, the factor that correlates most highly with gains in these skills is the amount of personal contact a student has with professors.

Not virtual contact, but interaction with real, live human beings, whether in the classroom, or in faculty offices, or in the dining halls.

Nothing else — not the details of the curriculum, not the choice of major, not the student’s GPA — predicts self-reported gains in these critical capacities nearly as well as how much time a student spent with professors.

These rich, human interactions can’t be replaced by any magical application of technology.

Technology has and will continue to improve how we teach.

But what it cannot do is remove human beings from the equation.

Now, there are new purveyors of massive, open online courses.


One even proposes to crowd-source the grading of essays, as if averaging letter grades assigned by five random peers were the educational equivalent of a highly trained professor providing thoughtful evaluation and detailed response.

To pretend that this is so is to deny the most significant purposes of education, and to forfeit its true value.

Yet the only way to achieve higher productivity, as the National Academy would define it, is to reduce each student’s time with the faculty.  [To have faculty teach more students and more classes, and to put more material online.]

We know that while such approaches may allow us to deliver some facts to some students more efficiently in the short run, the approaches will undermine the fundamental purpose of education in the long run.

Ken’s Take: Technology doesn’t replace classroom interaction, it liberates and enhances it.


One way is to change the nature of the classroom from “seat time” to “quality time”.

My rule: If I catch myself talking for, say, 10 minutes without a student comment or question, I try to outboard the material to an online tutorial.

That way, I’m able to free up class time for more rigorous interaction that can deepen learning … rather than just running out the clock.

* * * * *

Sidenote: I bet some of the profs who demean online crowd sourced grading use the off-line equivalent: having classmates rate peers’ class participation or having group members rated by their teammates.   Hmmm. What’s the difference?

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This prof taught 100,000 students last semester … wow.

May 22, 2012

Thanks to the spread of high-speed wireless technology, high-speed Internet, smartphones, Facebook, the cloud and tablet computers, the world has gone from connected to hyperconnected.

Finally, a generation that has grown up on these technologies is increasingly comfortable learning and interacting with professors through online platforms.

Coursera, a new interactive online education company.hopes to revolutionize higher education by allowing students from all over the world to not only hear his lectures, but to do homework assignments, be graded, receive a certificate for completing the course and use that to get a better job or gain admission to a better school.

Coursera just broke the million enrollments level.

Andrew Ng an associate professor of computer science at Stanford says: “I normally teach 400 students. Last semester I taught 100,000 in an online course on machine learning. To reach that many students I would have had to teach my normal Stanford class for 250 years.”

Source: N.Y. Times

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New wave education: TED goes to school …

April 30, 2012

Punch line: TED-Ed YouTube channel aims to woo teachers with its subject-specific short-video content and customizable tools. 

* * * * *
Excerpted from “TED-Ed Aims to be a Teacher’s Pet

The TED-Ed YouTube channel’s short videos have garnered over 2.5 million views since it was launched in March.

Now, a newly-launched TED-ED website is TED’s latest delivery on its brand promise of “Ideas Worth Spreading;” a dynamic site with customizable tools for educators.

click for a video  overview of TED-Ed


Each short video (three to eight minutes) includes multiple choice quizzes, open-ended questions and a ‘Dig Deeper’ section. When a student answers incorrectly, a ‘Video Hint’ directs them to the point in the video with the correct answer. Teachers can browse content by subject with videos mapped via tagging to curricula taught in schools and access correlative materials that augment with the learning level.

“The new website is all about what teachers and students can do with those videos,” said TED-Ed’s Logan Smalley. “The goal of TED-Ed is for each great lesson to reach and motivate as many learners as possible. By putting this new technology to use, we hope to maximize time in class and give teachers an exciting tool for customizing – and encouraging – learning.”

“But the most innovative feature of the site is that educators can customize these elements using a new functionality called “flipping,”” notes the official press release. “When a video is flipped, the supplementary materials can be edited and the resulting lesson is rendered on a new and private web page. The creator of the lesson can then distribute it and track an individual student’s progress as they complete the assignment.”

Custom lesson plans receive a unique URL where teachers can track student’s viewing and responses and their plans can draw from any video on YouTube.

“Educators who have tested the site applaud it for its ease and intuitiveness, which, they say, will be especially useful for technology-shy teachers. “Some teachers are kind of afraid of videos,” says Jonathan Bergmann, a K-8 technology facilitator outside of Chicago. “They feel like technology is such a huge hurdle. I think this website will make it easier.” Bergmann, who is a pioneer of the flipped class movement, sees the TED-Ed site becoming an essential tool for outside-the-classroom learning.”

… “Our goal here is to offer teachers free tools in a way they will find empowering,” said TED Curator Chris Anderson of the TEDucation push. “Great teaching skills are never displaced by technology. On the contrary, they’re amplified by it.” …

Edit by KJM

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