Update: E-rate Now More Than Ever

What applicants can expect in 2017.

GUEST COLUMN | by John Harrington

CREDIT Funds For Learning 2017.pngSchools and libraries are struggling to get sufficient internet access on their campuses. It takes a fast internet connection and enterprise-grade Wi-Fi to provide students and library patrons with the bandwidth necessary for today’s learning. And thanks to the E-rate program, schools are getting the services they need. The E-rate program is distinct from other funding sources in several ways. For example, the E-rate program is a discount program. This provides applicants with extra incentives to make sure that every dollar is spent wisely. The E-rate program is also unique in that it provides support to public and private schools, as well as libraries; this means these funds support the entire community.

We’ll keep an eye on the E-rate program as President Trump recently tapped Ajit Pai to be FCC Chairman. Under his leadership, Pai wants to make closing the digital divide one of his top priorities.

So what can E-rate applicants expect in 2017?

Recently, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau announced that the funding cap for this year’s filing window would be $3.99 billion. This is a 1.3 percent, or $51.2 million, increase from last year’s funding cap; this increase includes a $38 million increase for category one services and an increase of $13 million increase for category two.

This means there are a lot of extra dollars, but how does this play out in reality?

In 2015, $2.51 billion was disbursed to schools and libraries. This is the most support that the E-rate program has ever provided in a single funding year. The support broke out like this:

  • $1.21 billion for data and Internet services
  • $0.96 billion for on-campus Wi-Fi networks
  • $0.34 billion for voice telephone services

CREDIT Ajit Pai FCC Chair.jpgIn 2016, more than 24,000 applicants submitted requests totaling more than $3.6 billion, and we expect a similar number of applicants and funding requests for 2017. (The deadline to submit applications is May 11, 2017.)

As always, we’ll make sure to keep an eye on the E-rate program as President Trump recently tapped Ajit Pai (pictured, left) to be FCC Chairman. Under his leadership, Pai wants to make closing the digital divide one of his top priorities.

As the E-rate filing window is now open, we can be thankful that resources like these exist and play an indispensable role in connecting our communities to the future.

John Harrington is the CEO of Funds For Learning

Posted in guest column | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Changing Landscape of Online Education

As consumers crave personalized experiences, education is no exception.

GUEST COLUMN | by Chase Jarvis

CREDIT CreativeLive Yasmin Abdi.pngThe concept is almost amusingly anachronistic today, but not so long ago learning beyond the four walls of a classroom meant something called “distance learning” in which students traveled to “satellite centers” or branch campuses to watch live broadcasts of classes. Yes, it provided some degree of access, but it was far from convenient or engaging.

But a lot has changed since then. Today, technology is putting the power where it belongs: in the hands of students. With the combination of cloud technology and connected devices students can, for the first time in history, truly learn anytime, anywhere.

Knowing that engagement is key to both comprehension and retention, we must make learning even more immersive for all students.

According to Gartner, more than 20.8 billion connected devices will be on the market by 2020. This represents an opportunity for us to give millions—possibly even billions—of students access to a world-class education. But to reach this new audience, the education industry must adapt and develop new models that deliver experiences tailored to the unique needs of each student. As an industry, we’ve made tremendous progress on this front, but there’s still much work to be done.

We need new models that better align education with the way we live and work today. The traditional four-year college degree is often a poor match for the reality of today’s employment marketplace (the “skill economy”) in which workers are defined primarily by the skills they’ve learned and the results of applying them. And job security is largely a thing of the past: recent college grads will average nearly three jobs in their first five years alone in the workforce, according to a LinkedIn Economic Graph report. As I’ve often said, our parents had one job, we will have five, and our kids will have five at the same time.

The future of online education isn’t simply streaming English 101; it’s a re-thinking of the entire system with a student-first paradigm. The classes must reflect the mix of hard and soft skills that’s so highly prized in today’s job market, and the virtual classroom must harness new technologies to create immersive, interactive and personalized experiences.

My company, formed in 2010, is among a set of new entrants using technology to bring world-class education to non-traditional students and equip them with the skills to thrive in the new workplace. We connect the world’s top experts in creativity and entrepreneurship with students across the planet via a rich, engaging learning experience centered on our virtual classroom. Reaching more than 10 million students to date through streaming video, supported by IBM Cloud Video solutions, we bring the power of live video to a global audience.

Yasmin Abdi, a former Somali refugee who is now a professional photographer in Sacramento, Calif., (pictured, above) is just one example of how this new model of education is changing lives. Yasmin had a passion to learn but limited education opportunities—until she discovered our free streaming photography classes. With the opportunity to further her learning through non-traditional methods, coupled with the availability of technology to stream content across the globe (and some plenty of hard work on her part), Yasmin created a new path for her life and turned her passion into her career.

While Yasmine’s success story is heartwarming and invigorating, we have an imperative to continue evolving the technology and how we apply it. Knowing that engagement is key to both comprehension and retention, we must make learning even more immersive for all students. Facilitating dynamic discussions between the instructor and their students (and peer-to-peer discussions between students) replicates the vital social learning component of brick-and-mortar classrooms. Every student, regardless of physical location, should feel like they’re present in the classroom and part of a community of passionate learners.

We must also use new cognitive technologies to create personalized experiences. The ultimate goal in the marriage of education and technology is providing students with the opportunity to continue their education, whether their intent is picking up a new hobby or forging a new career path, as Yasmin was able to do.

Cutting-edge technologies, like cloud and cognitive capabilities, will continue to be the catalyst for game-changing innovation in education. Cloud will offer the ability to deliver high-quality live-streamed content while new cognitive technologies promise to help us better understand what people want to learn and how they learn it.

For example, cognitive technology will give us deep insights on each and every one of our students – what they like to learn, how often they’re streaming, feedback they have on the classes they’ve taken, and more. By understanding the nuances of each student, we’ll be better able to personalize the experience to meet their learning needs in a way even the most dedicated teachers would be challenged to do at this scale.

It may seem like education has come a long way since those “remote learning centers,” but I believe we’re just at the beginning of a tectonic shift in how we educate students and fuel their passions for fulfilling careers.

With millions of new, non-traditional learners coming online every year, the need for innovation in education is greater than ever. And now, by continuing to harness new technology, we’re able to deliver on the promise of online education. It’s up to us—the ones at the helm of this new industry—to embrace the new technologies, use them to create new models of learning and, most of all, to leave no stone unturned in the search to better serve our students.

Chase Jarvis is the founder and CEO of CreativeLive, a provider of over 1,500 classes curated by over 650 experts serving more than 10 million students with creative classes, inspiration, and tips in these areas: photo and video, art and design, music and audio, crafter and maker, and money and life.

Posted in guest column | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lecture Capture 2.0: The Evolution of Video in Higher Ed

Four guiding principles for shifting to deeper engagement platforms between faculty and students.

GUEST COLUMN | by Bradley S. Fordham

CREDIT Echo360.pngWhile it’s impossible that the Greek philosopher Heraclitus had campus technology in mind when he postulated that “the only thing that is constant is change,” this phrase could nevertheless be the mantra of instructional technology departments. Rapid changes in available technology, student expectations, and instructor needs mean campus IT leaders constantly face an ever-shifting landscape, in which they must find solutions with limited resources.

Technology should make life easier, not more complicated.

Savvy CIOs have realized that getting ahead of the curve requires solutions that meet immediate needs but are designed for “future proof” evolution. Take video, for example. Over the past decade, video capture has become a must-have technology across the campus. In the classroom, “lecture capture” supports instructors who face increasing class sizes in general education courses as well as the rise of nontraditional students, who require flexibility to view course material anytime, anywhere. But, as universities seek to better anticipate the needs of their diverse student body, the application of video as an instructional technology must evolve beyond simply “capturing” a lecture.

In a Lecture Capture 2.0 world, lecture capture is no longer about “quick and dirty” class recordings to be reviewed later. Advanced capabilities have moved us beyond simply capturing audio and video to capturing all of the learning activities in the classroom, facilitating more meaningful engagement between teachers and students, and surfacing new insights about how students learn. To move beyond simple capture, technology departments can no longer evaluate video platforms by checking the boxes of legacy features, but instead must consider how and whether video platforms are designed for pedagogy to enable deeper engagement between faculty and students.

There are four guiding principles for shifting to Lecture Capture 2.0:

Invest in Flexible Solutions to Reliably Support All Teaching & Learning Environments
Unfortunately, many lecture capture systems are, by design, held hostage in large lecture halls or other legacy instructional environments. They are not effective across the wide range of new teaching and learning environments being deployed as universities transcend traditional lectures to more online, hybrid, smaller group, and peer-to-peer settings.

A 2.0 approach enables seamless capture across wide and growing ranges of venues – auditoriums, classrooms of any size, laboratories, clinical settings, study or project group meetings, faculty offices, dorm rooms, and field work locations. In order to meet these varying needs, a platform needs mobile and fixed hardware options, agile capture software for classroom PCs, and robust methods for instructional sessions to be added ad-hoc.

Capture Insights, Not Just Video
New technologies like Fitbit and Waze capture data about how we move, sleep, and drive, and then use insights from this data to help us make better decisions in real time. This type of granular, timely data around student behavior in the classroom has not been available to monitor and improve teaching and learning—until now.

Lecture Capture 2.0 systems go beyond just recording videos to surfacing insights into student engagement by measuring student behaviors associated with perseverance and success such as asking questions during and after class, note taking, revisiting content (including videos), and collaboration with peers. This data on learning behaviors is becoming critically important as institutions emphasize retention and other student success initiatives. Without this new, granular behavioral data, real-time remediation (particularly at scale) is nearly impossible.

Improve End-User Experience and Satisfaction
Technology should make life easier, not more complicated. Lecture Capture 2.0 takes burdens off faculty by automating recording, measurement, and content delivery processes, an improvement over many systems designed for ad hoc or opt-in video recording of instructional sessions.

Additionally, technology should meet users where they are. Today, students and faculty expect to access and share course materials online with just a few clicks or taps as faculty mini-lectures become more popular, and personal capture and remote classroom solutions allow faculty to record, share, and teach “on the go” using personal or mobile devices. Students can likewise record relevant coursework on their PC, tablet, or smartphone. These mobile solutions allow students to engage with materials and collaborate with peers and instructors, while doing laundry, on the bus, or juggling home or family activities.

Demand Open, State-Of-The-Art Architecture
All of these powerful teaching and learning tools require software running on servers to drive them. In the past, these were on campus with the university responsible for deploying, securing, managing, scaling, and updating this infrastructure. On-premise systems were often closed, and vendors offered limited interoperability support. Infrastructure became obsolete faster than finances for refresh became available, so processing power was fixed and eventually insufficient.

As a way to circumnavigate these challenges, many university IT departments switched to servers in the cloud; however, simply moving from on-campus to the cloud is not enough. Solutions must be totally re-architected for the cloud to be able to dynamically scale up and down instantly and take advantage of new infrastructure technologies as soon as they emerge. Institutions must identify vendor partners that offer full support for all lecture capture 2.0 components deployed on campus (e.g., robust video recorders) as well as all teaching and learning capabilities deployed in the cloud. Ideal partners also follow an open, standards-based system integration philosophy recognizing that when universities can easily integrate multiple systems, everybody wins.

Across the country, forward-thinking technology departments, like those at University of Kentucky and University of Cincinnati, are exploiting this new reality of Lecture Capture 2.0, where lectures are no longer passive, and these revolutionary new teaching and learning technologies are not limited to traditional lecture halls. This evolution in video provides exciting opportunities to extend and transform teaching and learning moments, and help institutions continue to advance their academic missions achieving measurably improved levels of student success.

Bradley S. Fordham, Ph.D., is chief technology officer for Echo360 and serves on the IMS Global Technical Advisory Board Executive Committee. Previously, he has served as CTO of Amplify Education, has advised and consulted with NASA, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), other U.S. government agencies and Fortune 100 global technology companies.

Posted in cool tools | Leave a comment

Supercharging Student Voices

A veteran designer creates a remarkable video platform for millions of learners.

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

CREDIT Charles Miller Flipgrid.pngCharles Miller is changing the world. And it isn’t by accident. He is co-founder and Chief Design Officer of Flipgrid, a Minneapolis company focused on enabling video-driven social learning in classrooms and enterprises far and wide. He is also an Associate Professor in the College of Education and Human Development and the founder and former Executive Director of the Institute for Design Innovation at the University of Minnesota (UMN). Learners lives are better for his ideas coming to fruition; he’s been working on them for some time. In 2015, Charlie—with Jim Leslie—co-founded Flipgrid, an asynchronous video communication platform. In 2015, the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal inducted Charlie and Jim as Tech Titans for Investment Catalyst.

Student voice is a trend now and it stretches well into the horizon. It’s not going away. What we may see change is that we see an even greater focus on equity of voice, giving every student in every class the opportunity to speak up for what they believe in and to share their insights and experience.

Charlie has published more than one hundred journal articles, book chapters, and conference proceedings on the role of design in education; has received more than 30 million dollars in federal grant, foundation, and corporate funding; and has given hundreds of talks on design around the globe. Flipgrid was recently awarded the EdTech Digest Cool Tool Award for Best Product of 2017. The EdTech Awards (including Cool Tool, Leadership, and Trendsetter awards) honor innovators, leaders, and trendsetters shining bright in one of the greatest fields of human endeavor. “It’s an incredible honor to work on a product that amplifies students’ voices around the globe,” says Charlie. “To see our work and the work of our teachers and students recognized by the premier education technology publication EdTech Digest is simply humbling. We are longtime fans of the Cool Tool Awards, so this is beyond exciting for our team. Thanks to our inspiring teachers, students, and the entire EdTech Digest team.” From an amazing list of innovative products and companies shaping the future landscape of educational technology, Flipgrid is a social learning platform that now amplifies student voice in more than 50,000 Pre-K to PhD classrooms across 137 countries. Here, Charlie discusses digital citizenship, the importance of student voice, the power of video in learning, the state of education and technology’s role in it—as well as his thoughts on the future of learning. 

How does student voice impact the classroom?

Charlie: Currently, teachers are faced with many challenges in the classroom, including encouraging students to engage and take a stake in their education. One solution to student engagement is through social learning. By creating a curriculum that lends itself to social learning, educators allow students the opportunity to apply real-life experiences to educational concepts.

However, social learning is only successful if every student has a voice. A rich, collaborative dialogue is only beneficial if perspectives from every student are heard and taken into consideration. By inspiring all students to share their voice, they are empowered to share their insights, leading to deeper, more meaningful classroom conversations and a much richer learning experience.

What can educators do to ensure their students start their digital citizenship off on the right foot?

Charlie: Digital citizenship is becoming increasingly important as our society continues to be immersed in technology, and it’s crucial that students (especially younger students) learn the standards for appropriate, responsible technology use. For the near term it keeps them out of trouble and helps strengthen relationships with friends and peers, but more important, it sets them up for success later in life.

We are thrilled to see educators at all levels use Flipgrid to promote digital citizenship. Because digital citizenship is a lifelong process, educators recognize its importance and integrate into their curriculum. The majority of the digital citizenship assignments we see on Flipgrid are anchored on the ideas of treating others with kindness, using technology appropriately and understanding when to report anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.

A strong digital citizenship is a foundation for students as they develop into socially responsible adults.

How do you look at student voice and social learning – do they go hand in hand or are they different?

Charlie: Each student has his or her unique beliefs, insights and perspectives. Student voice is the act of expressing those ideas to their teacher, classmates and world. When students use their voices to apply their ideas to educational concepts, and their peers in turn watch and respond, they are engaging in social learning, so the two concepts very much go hand-in-hand.

At Flipgrid, our technology allows educators to expand the walls of their classroom by empowering students to apply their outside world experiences to the curriculum. When students share their voice with one another it opens their eyes to different perspectives and insights, resulting in a more rewarding, meaningful education.

What opportunity does video represent in transforming the learning experience?

Charlie: When we first created Flipgrid it was used to handle a very specific situation — student engagement. As a design professor at the University of Minnesota, I noticed that year after year it was always just four or five students who contributed to the class discussion. I had difficulty engaging shyer students in conversations, even when they knew they had something of value to add.

I created Flipgrid to “move the back row to the front of the classroom,” which means engaging every student and offering them equity of voice, including those modest students who sit in the back of the classroom and keep to themselves.

While student voice and social learning are broad objectives for Flipgrid, we made a conscious decision not to prescribe or build for specific use cases. There is no one way to use video in the classroom and we are constantly surprised and inspired by how educators develop their own ways of applying the technology to their specific situations.

Every day, we see one example after another of educators turning to technology that adapts to meet their needs and resist the technology that they have to adapt to.

Do you have any advice for school leaders seeking to introduce video into their classrooms?

Charlie: When it comes to introducing video, or any technology for that matter, into classrooms, our advice is to be creative and trust in what you believe will provide the most value for students.

We see educators at the K-12 level use video to encourage social learning. For example, a teacher in South Carolina uses Flipgrid to educate her middle school English class about Shakespeare. She created what we call a “grid,” or a digital community, for students to record and share their own Shakespearean insult videos. Her students engaged with the topic because they were more comfortable speaking into a camera, a method they are familiar with through apps like Snapchat and Instagram. They were also introduced to the topic through humor, which motivated even the most reluctant students to open up. We would never have thought of that use case on our own—brilliant!

In colleges and universities professors are using video to enrich student discussion and conversation. One of our more popular examples of video in higher education is Dr. Sam Richards’ sociology class at Penn State.

There are typically up to 1,000 students in Dr. Richards’ class speaking face-to-face about a variety of topics, including race, religion, and politics. With Flipgrid, every student has a voice and can engage with one another resulting in more meaningful conversation.

Beyond thinking creatively, it’s important to keep common logistical issues in mind. A couple of things, in particular, to watch for:

  • Ensure all students have access to the required technology.
  • Be mindful of school policies and regulations.
  • Start simple with topics students can confidently expand on.
  • Provide feedback and encourage students to learn from their peers.

What do you see as the state of education these days?

Charlie: As technology continues to be introduced to the classroom environment we are seeing educators unleash a new level of creativity and innovation with their students. Teachers are increasingly open to thinking drastically different about the way they run their classroom, whether it be embracing and “app smashing” various technologies for maximum value or physically rearranging the room promote a more engaged class.

We continue to be inspired by teachers’ commitment to enriching students’ lives and education.

What are your thoughts on technology’s role in education today?

Charlie: In short, it’s no longer tech for tech’s sake. There was a time when technology was introduced without a tangible use case and without a focus on adoption. Educators are becoming more sophisticated in how they look at and evaluate technology and are finding new ways to integrate technology into their curriculum that demonstrate meaningful impact. Technology is no longer integrated “for tech’s sake”. It must be easy to use and demonstrate an obvious complement to their curriculum.

What are a couple, or three, trends to watch on the horizon in education especially with regards to technology?

Charlie: Student voice is a trend now and it stretches well into the horizon. It’s not going away. What we may see change is that we see an even greater focus on equity of voice, giving every student in every class the opportunity to speak up for what they believe in and to share their insights and experience. Without equity of voice, student voice is just giving those same students who are already the lead contributors an even bigger platform.

As I mentioned earlier, we also see more time devoted to teaching students how to be productive digital citizens. It’s important for students to learn how to use technology and start their digital citizenship off on the right foot so they are set up for success later in life beyond the walls and safe space of the classroom.

Anything else you care to add or emphasize concerning video, ed tech, or anything else for that matter?

Charlie: At Flipgrid, every day we see one example after another of educators turning to technology that adapts to meet their needs and resist the technology that they have to adapt to. This is a key observation into why Flipgrid’s adoption has been so strong and continuing to grow. We embrace simplicity over complexity.

Flipgrid believes we should never tell educators how to apply technology or video in the classroom. Instead, we suggest Flipgrid as an easy to use app that can power their classroom to do what they want when they want. If you think about it, Flipgrid empowers teachers to be the Mark Zuckerberg of their own social learning network.

Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

Posted in cool tools | Leave a comment

Trends | Afterschool & STEM System Building Evaluation 2016

CREDIT Afterschool and STEM report.pngStudents participating in afterschool programs that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) reported increased interest in STEM careers and gains in important 21st century skills such as critical thinking and perseverance. Those findings emerge from new researchAfterschool & STEM System Building Evaluation 2016, an ambitious study supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and STEM Next (established by the Noyce Foundation). The study looked at nearly 1,600 students across more than 160 afterschool programs in 11 states. Key findings show that 80 percent of students reported a positive gain in their science career knowledge and 78 percent experienced a positive change in their self-reported interest in science. By some estimates, nearly 80 percent of all new jobs over the next decade will require STEM skills. However, there we see fewer Latino and African-American workers in STEM fields: while these individuals represent 29 percent of the general workforce population, they make up just 16 percent of the advanced manufacturing workforce, 15 percent of the computing workforce, and 12 percent of the engineering workforce. Additionally, women are underrepresented in STEM jobs, and there has been little improvement over the last 13 years. Female workers represent 24 percent of the engineering workforce, 36 percent of the computing workforce, and just 18 percent of the advanced manufacturing workforce. This new research affirms the vital role afterschool programs play in helping prepare all of our students for success in school and work. “Afterschool programs have significant potential to help young people across America prepare for success in school today and jobs tomorrow,” says Ron Ottinger, director of STEM Next. “Afterschool STEM programs are inspiring and equipping young people to pursue careers they never imagined before—and helping them gain skills needed for virtually every job in the future.” Findings from the research, as well as new articles on STEM learning from policymakers, educators, businesses, foundations, and youth development leaders, can be found online at STEM Ready America: Inspiring and Preparing Students for Success with Afterschool and Summer Learning. 

Posted in cool tools | Leave a comment