Author: Eric Wearne

Education Reform for the Digital Era

By Eric Wearne While many books, websites, and events exist to catalog new concepts in online education, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Education Reform for the Digital Era offers both a discussion and some practical solutions.  First, the editors, Checker Finn and Daniela Fairchild, describe three barriers to change which currently hinder online learning: Interest groups that try to either “capture the potential of technology to advance their own interests or to shackle it in ways that keep it from harming those interests”; The governance and financing structure of the current public school system; and, Issues of organizational capacity within the current public school system. The authors of the various chapters outline ways to address all three issues. First, regarding… View Article
By Eric Wearne Recently Governor Nathan Deal announced a task force to “recommend ways to improve student achievement through the creation of robust digital learning environments, which may include the transition to digital textbooks and the effective use of wireless mobile devices.” In his remarks, the Governor stated that, “Students need to develop technical literacy in order to attain 21st century skills and become competitive in the global marketplace, and our state will invest in that education. We must increase the quality and quantity of our digital learning opportunities to ensure that our students are college or career ready.” Leaving aside the fact that a great many of the students in school today probably already have better “technical literacy” than… View Article
By Eric Wearne Eric Wearne, Senior Fellow, Georgia Public Policy Foundation Harvard University Professor Clayton M. Christensen argues in his book Disrupting Class and elsewhere that the best and most long-lasting changes in any market tend to come from new entrants, rather than established players. Christensen argues that, in any field, new entrants gain a foothold into the market by taking on simple or unwanted tasks, often providing them at lower quality than existing players.  Then, after a time, quality, accessibility, and/or convenience increase, providing the new entrants an advantage and changing the market as a whole. Christensen’s idea is currently being put to the test in online education, and two organizations are poised to represent major changes in the… View Article

TED-Ed – More Ideas Worth Spreading

By Eric Wearne Eric Wearne, Senior Fellow, Georgia Public Policy Foundation TED (originally “Technology, Entertainment, Design,” but now just TED) bills itself as “a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.”  Its award-winning TEDTalks site hosts video talks by both well-known (and lesser-known) speakers on topics ranging from “tools that help the physical world interact with the world of data” to ethical questions about bio-engineering to how schools help kill students’ creativity. TED hosts two annual conferences, an award-winning video site (TEDTalks), and several other programs.  TED itself is well worth perusing as an educational tool on a variety of topics.  But the organization has begun to work on education explicitly, with potentially powerful results. TED-Ed is the… View Article
By Eric Wearne In 2011, Sebastian Thrun left his position as a computer science professor at Stanford University. He had offered a course on artificial intelligence, and enrolled 200 Stanford students. But the course was also offered online, for free. One hundred sixty thousand students from 190 countries enrolled in the course that way, and watched professor Thrun and his colleague from Google, Peter Norvig, teach their content through a series of videos and interactive quizzes and homework assignments. The experience proved transformational, for the students as well as Thrun. Of the 200 Stanford students enrolled, most stopped coming to class – they watched the videos and took the quizzes online just as students in Australia, Bangladesh and other countries… View Article
By Eric Wearne In Teacher in America, Jacques Barzun writes that, “In theory, the printed book should have technologically annihilated the teacher, for the original ‘lecture’ was a reading from a costly manuscript to students who could not afford it.” Clearly, that has not been the case. Barzun was talking about new educational technologies (decades ago), and while teachers are not likely to be “annihilated” by new technology in the near future, schooling will likely look very different, and very soon. In his 2011 book Getting Smart, venture capitalist and a former school superintendent Tom Vander Ark makes a case for changing our views of schooling to keep pace with new technologies. He argues for a blend of… View Article

Value-Added in NYC

Last week NYC Chancellor Joel Klein proposed publishing individual teachers' value-added data, L.A. Times-style. Current teacher evaluation systems do not take student achievement into account. That's a given.  Value-added models (VAM), which attempt to measure how much of an effect individual teachers have on students' test scores are potentially very useful as part of a re-worked teacher evaluation system. These data could be useful for promotion, dismissal and other reward decisions. But there are some items that should be discussed more often up front: First, to calculate a VAM score, a teacher has to teach a class to which a standardized test is attached. In Georgia, as in many states, that means that a VAM could only touch somewhere… View Article

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State Senator Eric Johnson, President pro tempore, Georgia State Senate more quotes