Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Identifying and describngemerging technologies that could impact learning, teaching, and creative inquiry in K-12 education

The New Media Consortium (NMC) and CoSN (Consortium for School Networking) have released the NMC/CoSN Horizon Report > 2016 K-12 Edition and Digital Toolkit.

The new edition reveals annual findings from the NMC Horizon Project, an ongoing research project, designed to identify and describe emerging technologies that could impact learning, teaching, and creative inquiry in K-12 education. Both organizations have also collaborated to produce an implementation toolkit to help educators put ideas from the report into action. The report and toolkit are made possible by Share Fair Nation under a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation.

Six key trends, six significant challenges, and six important developments in educational technology are identified across three adoption horizons over the next one to five years, giving school leaders, educational technologists, and teachers a valuable guide for strategic technology planning. The report provides in-depth insight into how trends and challenges are accelerating and impeding the adoption of educational technology, along with their implications for policy, leadership, and practice.

“Teachers, administrators, and policymakers worldwide will use the report to inform critical conversations and develop progressive strategies to meet the needs of today’s learners,” says Samantha Becker, NMC Senior Director of Publications & Communications and co-principal investigator for the report. “This edition reveals that more schools are implementing active learning approaches, transforming pedagogies and teachers’ roles in the classroom. We’re excited by how technology is enabling more students to apply creativity and critical thinking to address global issues.”

“The flagship Horizon Report, along with the new practical toolkit, give educators the insight to lead and take advantage of emerging educational innovations,” notes Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN and co-principal investigator for the report. “The toolkit will better allow school leaders to talk about these technologies right in the backyards of their communities. We are proud to partner with NMC on this forward-thinking effort and help school leaders make effective use of the tools needed to create and support modern, digital learning settings.”

The trends, challenges, and important developments in technology featured in the report are summarized below. New to this year’s edition and the NMC Horizon Report series in general are topics addressing digital equity, the achievement gap, and artificial intelligence, among others.

Key Trends Accelerating K-12 Educational Technology Adoption
The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report > 2016 K-12 Edition identifies “Coding as a Literacy” and “Students as Creators” as short-term trends accelerating the adoption of educational technology in K-12 education over the next one to two years. “Collaborative Learning” and “Deeper Learning Approaches” are mid-term trends expected to drive technology use in the next three to five years; meanwhile, “Redesigning Learning Spaces” and “Rethinking How Schools Work” are long-term trends anticipated to impact institutions for the next five years or more.

Significant Challenges Impeding K-12 Educational Technology Adoption
Several challenges are barriers to the mainstream use of technology in schools. “Authentic Learning Experiences” and “Rethinking the Roles of Teachers” are perceived as solvable challenges — those which we both understand and know how to solve. “Advancing Digital Equity” and “Scaling Teaching Innovations” are considered difficult challenges, which are defined and well understood but with solutions that are elusive. Described as wicked challenges are the “Achievement Gap” and “Personalizing Learning,” which are complex to define, much less to address.

Important Developments in Educational Technology for K-12 Education
Additionally, the report identifies makerspaces and online learning as digital strategies and technologies expected to enter mainstream use in the near-term horizon of one year or less. Robotics and virtual reality are seen in the mid-term horizon of two to three years; artificial intelligence and wearable technology are seen emerging in the far-term horizon of four to five years.

The report’s findings were identified through a qualitative research process designed and conducted by the NMC that engaged an international body of experts in K-12 schools, technology, business, and other fields. The subject matter collaboration focused on a set of research questions designed to surface significant trends and challenges and to identify emerging technologies with a strong likelihood of adoption in K-12 education. The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report > 2016 K-12 Edition details the areas in which these experts were in strong agreement.

The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report > 2016 K-12 Edition and Toolkit are available online, free of charge, and are released under a Creative Commons license to facilitate their widespread use, easy duplication, and broad distribution.

Using a Reading Screening Assessment to Identify Students at Risk in Math

District and state education leaders and teachers frequently use assessments to identify students who are at risk of performing poorly on end-of-year reading achievement tests.

This study explores the use of a universal screening assessment of reading skills for the identification of students who are at risk for low achievement in mathematics and provides support for the interpretation of screening scores to inform instruction.

The study results demonstrate that a reading screening assessment predicted poor performance on a mathematics outcome (the Stanford Achievement Test) with similar levels of accuracy as screening assessments that specifically measure mathematics skills.

These findings indicate that a school district could use an assessment of reading skills to screen for risk in both reading and mathematics, potentially reducing costs and testing time. In addition, this document provides a decision tree framework to support implementation of screening practices and interpretation by teachers.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Omega-3, omega-6 supplement improves reading for children

Supplement of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may improve reading skills of mainstream schoolchildren, according to a new study from Sahlgrenska Academy, at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Children with attention problems, in particular, may be helped in their reading with the addition of these fatty acids.

The study included 154 schoolchildren from western Sweden in grade 3, between nine and ten years old. The children took a computer-based test (known as the Logos test) that measured their reading skills in a variety of ways, including reading speed, ability to read nonsense words and vocabulary.

The children were randomly assigned to receive either capsules with omega-3 and omega-6, or identical capsules that contained a placebo (palm oil) for 3 months. The children, parents and researchers did not learn until the study was completed which children had received fatty acids and which had received the placebo. After three months, all children received real omega-3/6 capsules for the final three months of the study.

"Even after three months, we could see that the children's reading skills improved with the addition of fatty acids, compared with those who received the placebo. This was particularly evident in the ability to read a nonsense word aloud and pronounce it correctly (phonologic decoding), and the ability to read a series of letters quickly (visual analysis time)," says Mats Johnson, who is chief physician and researcher at the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

No children diagnosed with ADHD were included in the study, but with the help of the children's parents, the researchers could identify children who had milder attention problems. These children attained even greater improvements in several tests, including faster reading already after three months of receiving fatty acid supplements.

Polyunsaturated fats important for the brain

Polyunsaturated fats and their role in children's learning and behavior is a growing research area.

"Our modern diet contains relatively little omega-3, which it is believed to have a negative effect on our children when it comes to learning, literacy and attention," says Mats Johnson. "The cell membranes in the brain are largely made up of polyunsaturated fats, and there are studies that indicate that fatty acids are important for signal transmission between nerve cells and the regulation of signaling systems in the brain."

Previous studies in which researchers examined the effect of omega-3 as a supplement for mainstream schoolchildren have not shown positive results, something Mats Johnson believes may depend on how these studies were organized and what combination and doses of fatty acids were used. This is the first double-blind, placebo-controlled study showing that omega-3/6 improves reading among mainstream schoolchildren.

"Our study suggests that children could benefit from a dietary supplement with a special formula. To be more certain about the results, they should also be replicated in other studies," says Mats Johnson.

The article Omega 3/6 fatty acids for reading in children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in 9-year-old mainstream schoolchildren in Sweden was published by The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Math difficulties may reflect problems in a crucial learning system in the brain

Children differ substantially in their mathematical abilities. In fact, some children cannot routinely add or subtract, even after extensive schooling. Yet the causes of these problems are not fully understood. Now, two researchers, at Georgetown University Medical Center and Stanford University, have developed a theory of how developmental "math disability" occurs.

The article, in a special issue on reading and math in Frontiers in Psychology, proposes that math disability arises from abnormalities in brain areas supporting procedural memory. Procedural memory is a learning and memory system that is crucial for the automatization of non-conscious skills, such as driving or grammar. It depends on a network of brain structures, including the basal ganglia and regions in the frontal and parietal lobes.

The procedural memory system has previously been implicated in other developmental disorders, such as dyslexia and developmental language disorder, say the study's senior researcher, Michael T. Ullman, PhD, professor of neuroscience at Georgetown.

"Given that the development of math skills involves their automatization, it makes sense that the dysfunction of procedural memory could lead to math disability. In fact, aspects of math that tend to be automatized, such as arithmetic, are problematic in children with math disability. Moreover, since these children often also have dyslexia or developmental language disorder, the disorders may share causal mechanisms," he says.

The study's lead author, Tanya M. Evans, PhD, who specializes in reading and math, was a graduate student at Georgetown. Evans is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University.

Ullman says that their theory, called the procedural deficit hypothesis of math disability, "offers a powerful, brain-based approach for understanding the disorder, and could help guide future research." The paper shows that previous findings are consistent with the theory, and lays out specific predictions that can be thoroughly tested through subsequent research.

To date, several other explanations of math disability have been suggested, such as deficits in spatial short-term memory, which could cause difficulties keeping numbers in mind. However, Evans says "other accounts do not generally explain math disability in terms of underlying brain structures, though the disorder must ultimately depend on aberrations in the brain."

Ullman and Evans say that learning math likely depends on the brain's two primary learning and memory systems -- not just procedural memory, but also declarative memory, where conscious knowledge is learned. "We believe that learning math is likely similar to learning other skills," Evans says. "For example, declarative memory may first be used to consciously learn how to drive, but then with practice driving gradually becomes automatized in procedural memory. However, for some children with math disability, procedural memory may not be working well, so math skills are not automatized."

"Various domains, including math, reading, and language, seem to depend on both declarative and procedural memory. Evidence suggests that when procedural memory is impaired, children may have math disability, dyslexia, or developmental language disorder, though declarative memory often compensates to some extent," Ullman says. "We believe that understanding the role of memory systems in these disorders should lead to diagnostic advances and possible targets for interventions."

For-profit trade schools prove costly for disadvantaged black youth

Young African-Americans from some of the country's most disadvantaged neighborhoods are drawn to for-profit post-secondary trade schools, believing they are the quickest route to jobs. But a new study co-authored by a Johns Hopkins University sociologist finds the very thing that makes for-profit schools seem so appealing -- a streamlined curriculum -- is the reason so many poor students drop out.

Studying 150 black youth from some of Baltimore's lowest-income neighborhoods, researchers found that young people who attended for-profit institutions ended up in more debt and with fewer job prospects than they might have had they attempted two-or-four-year nonprofit schools. The findings, which shed new light on what attracts students to for-profit institutions and why they struggle to complete certifications, were set to be published online today and will appear in the October print edition of the journal Sociology of Education.

"The quick jump into for-profit schools really precludes other options that might be less costly and have a bigger return," said co-author Stefanie DeLuca, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins. "These young people are vulnerable to the flashy ads for these schools and lured in by how quickly they could get jobs."

DeLuca and co-author Megan M. Holland, an assistant professor of educational leadership at the University at Buffalo-SUNY, found most of the young people in their study, 53 percent, pursued occupational certification at for-profit trade schools.

These for-profit schools offer occupational training programs in fields like cosmetology, auto mechanics, computer networking and phlebotomy. Most students who enroll in these programs are very low-income, and studies show the number of disadvantaged students choosing for-profit programs is increasing.

In Baltimore, the researchers interviewed 150 people in 2010. They were 15 to 24 years old and grew up in neighborhoods with poverty rates exceeding 50 percent and with African-American populations of at least 80 percent. When they were born, most lived in high-rise public housing and were on public assistance. Half of them grew up with one or both parents suffering from addictions and about the same number had a parent who had been incarcerated.

These young people had very grounded career expectations -- most hoped to find working-class jobs as police officers, construction workers, administrative help, truck drivers and nursing assistants, the researchers found. And because of their family and financial circumstances, they wanted to get these jobs as soon as possible.

For-profit trade schools appealed to their desire to get quickly to work, DeLuca and Holland found. With little to no career counseling in high school, the authors found the young people researched education options on their own and relied heavily on information they heard during TV commercials for for-profit schools, which emphasized the short duration of their programs.

Although most of the for-profit trade programs lasted less than two years, they were expensive and, unlike nonprofit schools, didn't allow undecided students to switch courses of study once a program was paid for upfront. Once enrolled, the young people tended to realize they'd committed to occupations they either weren't qualified for or didn't enjoy. They dropped out, or hopped from one program to another, or tried taking several programs at a time, racking up debt and increasing chances they would quit it all before earning certification.

Of the young people who enrolled in a for-profit college, only 31 percent earned certification by the time the study ended.

Although completion rates at community colleges were even worse, the students who chose for-profit colleges racked up more debt and their loan default rates were much higher, the study found. In Baltimore, the cost of attending the two most popular for-profit schools, Brightwood College (formerly TESST College of Technology) and FORTIS, was two to four times that of attending the most popular community colleges, the study found.

"Some of these students might have been better suited for a two-year community college, which is a lot less expensive, or some could have gone straight into a four-year program," DeLuca said. "This is about how young people in some of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods are trying to navigate the transition to a career with very little information."

Negative Impact of Classifying Some Students as English Learners

Across the United States, students who are deemed not to be proficient in English are classified as English learners (ELs). This classification entitles students to specialized services but may also result in stigmatization and barriers to educational opportunity. 

This article uses a regression discontinuity design to estimate the effect of EL classification in kindergarten on students’ academic trajectories. Furthermore, it explores whether the effect of EL classification differs for students in English immersion versus bilingual programs. 

The study find that among language-minority students who enter kindergarten with relatively advanced English proficiency, EL classification results in a substantial negative net impact on math and English language arts test scores in Grades 2 through 10. This effect, however, is concentrated in English immersion classrooms.


Charter schools in the urban areas of Massachusetts have large, positive effects on educational outcomes

There is a deep well of rigorous, relevant research on the performance of charter schools in Massachusetts. This research exploits random assignment and student-level, longitudinal data to examine the effect of charter schools in Massachusetts.

This research shows that charter schools in the urban areas of Massachusetts have large, positive effects on educational outcomes. The effects are particularly large for disadvantaged students, English learners, special education students, and children who enter charters with low test scores.

In marked contrast, the research finds that the effects of charters in the suburbs and rural areas of Massachusetts are not positive. Estimates indicate that students at these charter schools do the same or worse than their peers at traditional public schools.

Complete report