Voice from the Field

IGNORE THESE FINDINGS AT YOUR PERIL: Project RED Announces Significant Results from Phase III Research

America has failed to capitalize on the promise of technology to drive dramatic improvements in student achievement. Over $100 billion dollars has been spent on education technology over the past 35 years, with little or nothing to show for it. Standardized test results have been stagnant for decades. Other methods used to measure student skill level, understanding, or performance have faired the same. All other industries have at least embraced cost savings that could be realized through efficiencies gained by implementing technology.

Why is education, among all industries, the lone failure?
What if a district could dramatically improve student academic performance while reducing overall expenditures?
What if a state could substantially improve its economy?

Despite a few flashes of brilliance, the education establishment at large remains in the dark about how to realize the transformative power of education technology to dramatically improve student achievement and to rein in the ever-increasing cost of education. The stakes have never been higher.

In many states, more than half of students are performing below acceptable levels. A lifetime of psychological distress for the roughly 100 million citizens that did not do well in school is conveniently ignored.

Change in our society is occurring at an exponential rate. As a nation, we are unprepared to deal with the workforce requirements of a decade ago. How will we deal with the world a decade from now when the current crop of students graduate? How will parents feel when their sons and daughters are competing poorly in the job market against Artificial Intelligence-controlled robotic employees taking an ever increasing share of jobs? And how will we deal with the millions of students who will drop out of school? Can we really afford to build more prisons?

Building on seven years of research, and now a recognized name in more than 1,000 districts, Project RED III brings a wealth of new research-based evidence on what really works and what doesn’t work.

PROJECT RED III RESULTS SUMMARY

Detailed discussion of the findings are presented in a series of Project RED Briefs that are available on the Project RED website. Embedded within the focus areas are a number of important implementation elements such as change leadership, formative assessment, and fidelity of implementation, that are supported by both the original Project RED study and the current Signature District study. Provided here are the most essential findings from Project RED.

Leadership

  • A shared vision for learning— one that does not focus on technology but rather integrates it into the transformed learning in appropriate ways—empowers students to find their own path and take advantage of technological efficiencies.
  • Focus on the development of formal implementation plans for leadership, communication, student-empowered instruction, digital formative data collection and usage, ongoing professional learning, and finance.
  • Combine the implementation plans into a Master Plan managed by a professional.
  • Develop continuous improvement systems to check for fidelity of implementation.

Communications

  • Poor communications will lead to major issues that could derail the entire implementation.
  • Create a variety of ways to receive input from all stakeholders, because communication is not just about providing information but engaging people in meaningful ways.
  • Communicate early and often.
  • Use all means possible to communicate, because different people engage in different ways.
  • Create a formal communications plan that works hand-in-hand with every aspect of the implementation.

Instruction, Pedagogy, and Assessment

  • Matching the appropriate pedagogy to the desired learning yields better outcomes (e.g., you don’t learn how to ride a bike by reading about how to do it).
  • Students are more engaged and motivated when they have some control over learning, which leads to better outcomes over time.
  • The most important factor in improving student outcomes seems to be the effective use of ongoing digital formative assessment data by teachers and students.

Professional Learning

  • There is a difference between training people to use tools and ongoing professional learning.
  • Both training and ongoing professional learning are important to proper implementation, continuous improvement, and high levels of achievement.
  • Job-embedded training and professional learning is far more effective than episodic training removed from the student learning environment.
  • Create ongoing opportunities for teachers to examine their own practice by establishing formal systems similar to Communities of Practice.

Finance

Project RED financial modeling revolves around three seminal areas:

  1. Understanding the total cost of implementation and how to maximize a district’s current situation
  2. Capturing savings through digital efficiency that can be redeployed to offset technology expenses
  3. Identifying the long-term financial benefits of improved student outcomes by lowering costs associated with things such as course repetition, disciplinary actions, dropout rates, etc.

It is possible to become revenue neutral at the district level and revenue positive over time at the state level when districts properly implement technology and take advantage of the efficiencies that can be gained. Many of the Signature Districts struggled with making a complete digital conversion. Adding the cost of 1:1 technology, while maintaining the elements of a traditional learning environment (e.g., printing assignments to be returned; copying content, quizzes, and tests to be administered using paper and pencil, etc.) is expensive.

Summary

When looking at the overall results of the Signature District analysis, the Project RED Team highlights the follow salient points:

  • It is very difficult to ensure fidelity of implementation when dealing with complex human systems, but without it, the implementation is guaranteed to fail. Fidelity of implementation continues to be an issue, even in the recognized high-performing Signature Districts. There are hundreds of points where things can break down, and the Project RED Team witnessed many of them somewhere within the Signature Districts.
  • Effective use of formative data is essential for dramatic improvements in learning and for continuous improvement of the overall initiative. Using formative data to drive learning activities facilitates student progress. This is a consistent professional development finding as well and is most profound when teachers work collaboratively in examining learners’ work, artifacts, progress, and unique needs.
  • To maximize outcomes, it is essential to match the appropriate pedagogy to the desired learning. This seems obvious but, unfortunately, is rarely practiced. Direct instruction, with lecture and practice, is still the most widely used instructional method in secondary schools worldwide, in spite of the fact that it often isn’t the most effective way for students to acquire skills or conceptual understanding.

About Project RED

Project RED (http://one-to-oneinstitute.org/about-us/project-red) is a collaborative of the Greaves Group, LLC in southern California (http://www.greavesgroup.com/about/the-greaves-group.html) and the One-to-One Institute, a not-for-profit located in Michigan (www.one-to-oneinstitute.org).  Project RED is the reporting and analysis of the three years of data provided by Project RED’s Signature Districts, coupled with high stakes test score data provided by the respective state organizations. The University of Memphis, Center for Research in Educational Policy provided an independent evaluation of the data which, in combination with the groundbreaking first study of 1,000 schools, provides unparalleled insights into what drives academic and financial success in schools. For more information and services contact: info@one-to-oneinstitute.org.

Project RED III co-authors are:

Tom Greaves
Mr. Greaves has 47 years of experience in the computer industry. He is recognized as a visionary in the conceptualization, design, engineering, and marketing of ubiquitous technology digital transformations for schools. He has been involved in hundreds of large-scale technology projects and 1:1 initiatives at the district, state, and federal levels. He has participated in the product marketing and development of over 200 award-winning educational software and hardware products. Mr. Greaves holds multiple patents and patent disclosures for student computing technologies. Currently, Mr. Greaves is focused on proving the hypothesis that properly implemented educational technology can contribute to dramatic improvements in student achievement as well as being revenue positive at the state level. tom@greavesgroup.com

Leslie Wilson
Ms. Wilson is CEO and co-founder of One-to-One Institute, a non-profit serving organizations in successful implementation of personalized 1:1 learning programs. She earlier co-directed Michigan’s 1:1 initiative, Freedom to Learn. Prior to the Institute, Ms. Wilson served public education for 31 years as change agent, teacher, and in multiple administrator roles. An Education Policy/Program Fellow with the Institute for Educational Leadership, Ms. Wilson created an advanced fellowship program for educational technology leaders. She completed her undergraduate and doctoral coursework at the University of Michigan, has an MA in Instructional Technology from Wayne State University, and special education administrator certification from Eastern Michigan University. She is currently Board President of Nexus Academy in Lansing, Michigan, a blended learning high school, and a mentor for Intel’s Education Accelerator Project. Ms. Wilson co-authored the Project RED research and “Technology for Learning-A Guidebook for Change.” Follow-on publications include: “A Global Toolkit: Project RED” and “Ready, Set, Go - A Guide for Implementing 1:1 Technologies.” As contributing author, Ms. Wilson worked with leaders, policy makers, FCC, and USDOE to publish “The Digital Textbook Playbook.” For the journal, Science, Technology & Mathematics (STEM), Wilson wrote the chapter on “Transforming Education: One-to-One.” She is a frequent writer, blogger, and speaker, recognized as an international expert in change agency, leadership, and education technologies. Her most recent publication is the chapter on “Governance” in Alan Shark’s book, The Digital Journey in K-12: Overcoming Roadblocks & Embracing Innovation. lesliew@1two1.org

Michael Gielniak
Dr. Gielniak is the Chief Operating Officer for the One-to-One Institute. He has worked with schools, districts, and states across the country in an effort to create successful and sustainable one-to-one programs. Prior to his work with One-to-One Institute, Dr. Gielniak developed the internal assessment and evaluation system for Michigan’s Freedom to Learn Program. In 2009 Dr. Gielniak led the research team that designed the methodology, created the data collection instruments, and analyzed the data for Project RED. He is a co-author of Project RED’s research report, “The Technology Factor, Nine Keys to Student Achievement and Cost Effectiveness,” which has become the most widely used resource regarding the proper implementation of 1:1 technology in schools. Dr. Gielniak is also the co-author of two other books: Revolutionizing Education through Technology and Technology for Learning: A Guidebook for Change, both of which are valuable resources for the proper implementation of education technology. Both a Fulbright Scholar and an Emmy Award winner, Dr. Gielniak has been working with creative and educational environments around the globe for more than 30 years. He has served as a teacher, an administrator, and a consultant and holds degrees in elementary and secondary instruction, Education Leadership, and his doctoral work was in the cognitive neurosciences domain. mgielniak@1two1.org