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Connected Educator Month

We're a third of the way through Connected Educator Month and there's a lot going on. Connected Educator Month (CEM) is part of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education's Connected Educator initiative. It's a way to both engage educators and model the power and variety of online communities and learning networks. Activities include webinars, forums, twitter hashtag chats, individual community guided tours, open houses, exhibits, online classes and courses, MOCCs, contests or challenges, collaborative projects and more. I've been able to participate in a few activities this week, though I missed the town hall and kickoff activities, which seemed especially rich. The activities I participated in drew moderate audiences, sometimes quietly taking in the main presentation, but several included lively back channel dialogs. "Listening in" is a great way to get a picture of what's on educators' minds right now. It's also a great way to gather ideas about setting up and running your own online community to support educators and establish your organization n as a partner in the ongoing effort to improve teaching and learning. The complete schedule of activities can be found at http://connectededucators.org/events/. Read More »

Beyond Reading and Math

I really didn't expect to be writing about a government shutdown, but Congress has not been able to find a way to move beyond its deep divisions. The new federal fiscal year started on October 1 and most people expected that there would be a short-term Continuing Resolution in place by then. Continuing resolutions allow the government to operate while a longer-term solution is hammered out, holding funding level with that of the previous year. Compromise is in short supply in Washington right now and while the country (and the schools) can survive a few more days of this, if it escalates into an even more contentious debate around raising the debt ceiling, the consequences will be serious. It's the uncertainty that is so damaging. The economic recovery at the state level is still fragile and the schools never deal well with uncertainty. Hopefully this gets resolved quickly. Read More »

EdNET 2013 and More

Many of us will be gathering in Denver this Sunday to kick off EdNET and celebrate the Conference's 25th anniversary. I'm not sure where the summer went, much less this past month, but I look forward to seeing many long-time friends, hearing what our invited speakers have to say about the state of the market and taking the chance both to look back through the years and forward to what the future might hold.

In my mail I see a reminder from SIIA (the Software & Information Industry Association) that the deadline for nominations for its venerable 2014 CODiE Awards is today, September 20. Education CODiE Awards showcase applications, products and services from developers of educational software, digital content, online learning services, and related technologies across the K-20 sector. This is a chance to get your products and/or services in front of potential customers, press, and partners. Check out the details here. After today, Friday, September 20th, the nomination fee will be increased and the deadline will be extended to October 4th.

The Federal Communications Commission received 759 comments in response to its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to modernize the E rate program. Comments can be accessed via the through the ECFS Search screen. Simply enter "13-184" in the Proceeding Number field, and push "Enter." Read More »

OER, Kindergarten Assessments

I've seen several announcements about the availability of rich libraries of open educational resources (OER). I've seen several announcements about the availability of rich libraries of open educational resources (OER). The Saylor Foundation is making its Media Library freely available to the public. Since 2008, the Foundation's free education initiative has focused on driving the cost of education to zero and expanding access to quality OER. Toward that end, the foundation has built over 270 free, self-paced, online courses mostly for higher ed, with a recent expansion into K-12. The online Media Library includes about 6,000 total resources, including 3,000 open educational resources, 1,300 videos, 124 full-length textbooks, and 2,500 articles, covering a broad spectrum of curriculum across K-12, college, and professional education. The online library draws learning materials out from the courses, adds useful metadata (additional information such as author, license type, abstract, etc.), and makes the items searchable by course, subject, keywords, license type, and more. Read More »

Literacy Courseware Challenge

I hate to even bring the subject up, but the new federal fiscal year, FY 2014, starts on Oct 1, 2013. Few appropriations bills have been passed. Bills funding education, like many others, are not moving at all. Congress comes back in session on Sept 9 and there aren’t that many working days before the start of the new fiscal year, some of which will be devoted to the debate about military action in Syria. That makes it almost certain that Congress will pass a Continuing Resolution to keep the government running. A CR will hold spending level with that of FY 2013 and does nothing to address the sequester or the continuing cuts called for in the Budget Control Act. There’s a debt ceiling debate looming in November and there are likely to be continuing efforts to defund the healthcare law. With so many opportunities to wreak havoc, Congress may decide to pass along term CR or a shorter-term CR followed by the passage of a big omnibus funding bill. The scenario is familiar. It’s played out in one form or another since 2008. Since a good resolution seems unlikely, let’s hope for a speedy one. Extended uncertainty is not good for the schools or at the bigger picture level for the nation’s economy. Read More »

Flipped Day

As I watched the various events and the in-depth news coverage associated with the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, I found myself awash in memories. And my next thought was "What a learning opportunity!" I know how pressed teachers feel right now in light of the new Common Core standards and accountability pressures, but I hope that teachers all over America took advantage of the wealth of primary source materials that scrolled across their students TVs, tablets and phones to engage their student in an exploration of the historical facts and serious discussion of the consequences and present day implications of that event. The music alone - popular anthems and old spirituals - offered one lens through which to explore the movement to say nothing of the rhythm and language of Dr. King's speech. Who were those people who marched and why? What did they want? What a chance to pull students into an appreciation of what our past has to teach us. Read More »

Public Attitudes Toward Education

The media is full of stories about the three national polls of public attitudes about education that were released this week - Education Next's 7th annual survey on What Americans Are Thinking about Common Core and Other Education Policies, the 45th annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research on Parents' Attitudes on the Quality of Education in the United States. Some topics are common to all three surveys, while each also contains unique and interesting questions about a variety of topics. If you're really interested in this sort of thing, you will want to go directly to the survey documents. You want to see exactly how the questions were stated and the response choices people were offered, since both can affect way a particular question is answered. Read More »

E-Rate Reform, Competency-Based Education

There's a lot of effort going into drumming up support for an expansion of the E-Rate, as you can see from several headlines in this week's Feature section. Funds for Learning estimates that the network and connectivity upgrades necessary to adequately connect U.S. schools would cost billions, given current pricing models. They see raising the E-rate funding cap as one way to deal with these costs, as does the Learning First Alliance. There are other ways to go, however - like reducing the amount of money that can be spent on POTS (plain old telephone services) and support for more cost-effective purchasing practices. I'm sure many of you have your own ideas about E-Rate reform. Comments on the FCC's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking are due by September 16, 2013. Read More »

New York Test Scores

New York released its results for the new Common Core-aligned assessments that were administered this spring and the news was fairly discouraging. I'll get back to the test scores in a minute, but the other part of this story is that supporters of the Common Core standards and the looming new Common Core assessments went on the offensive here. And that's good, though it may have been too late to matter. In New York City Mayor Bloomberg and a number of state officials held a major press conference to discuss the results. Many people issued supportive statements, including Achieve and PARCC. A group of leading businessmen are lending their support. Secretary Duncan got on the phone with a group of reporters, though in an area like this I'm never sure if support from the Department of Education helps or hurts. Depends on who's listening, I'd guess. It does seems as if New York education leaders did not start early enough to warn parents and the wider community what was going to happen, how bad it would seem and why it really is a step in the right direction. Read More »

News Roundup

I always know the summer is winding down when news about “Back-to School” promotions begin to cross my desk from the big office supply retailers and school supply companies. The collection bins for donated school supplies went up today at the local grocery stores. Chicago opens after Labor Day, but many schools across the south are opening next week and most by the week after. It will be another “interesting” school year. Schools will begin to feel the impact of federal budget cuts mandated under the sequester. The sequester was set at 5.23%, but depending on enrollments and the level of poverty at any given school, actual reduction could range in the 7% to 11% range, with some school faring better. Read More »