Virtual School Meanderings

April 20, 2015

AERA 2015 – Blended Learning in K–12 Education: What Do We Really Have, and Where Do We Go?

This is the eighth session that I am blogging from the 2015 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association.  Unfortunately, I had to leave the conference yesterday, but I did want to post an entry for this – and the other entries from today – so that others might contribute their notes from the session.  So, this presentation is a part of the following session:

72.062 – Understanding the Digital Evolution in K–12 Education: Policy and Practice Perspectives
Mon, April 20, 10:35am to 12:05pm, Marriott, Fourth Level, Armitage
Session Type: Symposium

Abstract
Researchers will present diverse perspectives and research projects that examine how computing and digital tools are impacting education across states, districts, schools, and classrooms. Computer devices, digital content, video games, online learning, and models such as blended learning, are becoming an accepted part of the toolset in educational practice. There is a great need to understand how technology impacts all aspects of the K-12 education system including how for-profit and public institutions structure education options, district leaders make decisions regarding technology spending and implementation, and school leaders and teachers adopt local practices. The panelists will present research projects that illuminate key issues surrounding new technological developments in education, and frame agendas to inform research that can address these challenges.

Sub Unit
SIG-Technology as an Agent of Change in Teaching and Learning

Chair
Richard R. Halverson, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Papers
Equal Scrutiny: Data Use, Access, and Assessment in Digital Education Contracting – Annalee G. Good, University of Wisconsin – Madison; Patricia Burch, University of Southern California

K–12 Online Education: Tracing Developments in Policy and Adoption in Ohio – June Ahn, University of Maryland – College Park; Andrew McEachin, North Carolina State University

Drowning Digitally: How Disequilibrium Shapes Practice in a Blended Learning Charter School – Andrea J. Bingham, University of Southern California

Blended Learning in K–12 Education: What Do We Really Have, and Where Do We Go? – Peter Samuelson Wardrip, University of Pittsburgh; June Ahn, University of Maryland – College Park

Discussant
Patricia Burch, University of Southern California

The specific session is:

Blended Learning in K–12 Education: What Do We Really Have, and Where Do We Go?

Abstract
Blended learning describes learning arrangements in which students learn in part through online or software-based delivery of content, and also in part through face-to-face instructional settings such as a classroom (Staker & Horn, 2012). Through the combination of technology-based instruction and face-to-face activity, new configurations of teaching and learning can theoretically occur. While there is a great deal of policy interest in blended learning, we know little about instructional practice in a blended learning classroom. Put differently, there is a great need for empirical data and case studies of classroom practice to lend deeper understanding of the ways in which blended learning is actually linked to student achievement in K-12 classrooms.

Researchers of educational technology have long understood that technology alone does not cause student learning (Clark, 1983). Similarly, the few studies that evaluate blended models compared to face-to-face instruction in K-12 settings show varying results (e.g. Barrow, Markman, & Rouse, 2009; Campuzano, Dynarski, Agodini, & Rall, 2009; Wijekumar, Meyer, & Lei, 2012). The mere presence of blended learning software does not cause student learning. However, the use of blended learning models does structure the kinds of teaching and learning activities that can occur in a classroom setting. We present a case study of instructional practice within a blended learning, urban, elementary school and explore three exploratory research questions:

1. How do teachers in this blended learning setting enact various pedagogical models and instructional strategies that utilize the affordances of their available technological and classroom resources?

2. What new challenges to instructional practice arise and what factors are needed to mitigate such challenges?

3. What new opportunities to improve instructional practice emerge and what factors are needed to realize these opportunities?

Our case studies make several contributions to the growing interest in using blended learning to improve student learning and outcomes. First, we provide an empirical account of classroom instruction within a school-based blended learning environment, with particular attention to how the affordances of blended learning tools interact with teacher practice to result in the classroom behaviors we observed. Second, we highlight some elements of instructional practice that appear to rise as particularly unique opportunities, and challenges, in blended environments. For example, we observe that the complexity of data use rises tremendously for teachers as they strive to implement digital tools, attend to data in those tools, and make rapid decisions about how to provide students with the right sequence of learning activities, and personalize each of these sequences for every student in a classroom. As we further examine these challenges in our case study work, we aim to refine particularly salient variables for future research, which may provide more nuanced and deeper understanding of what factors (e.g. instructional and data-informed practices) may truly link blended learning arrangements with student outcomes. This work will also inform future implementations of blended learning, professional development to support blended teaching, and provide a more accurate picture of the human element of blended learning.

So if anyone has any notes from this presentation, please feel free to post them here.

AERA 2015 – Drowning Digitally: How Disequilibrium Shapes Practice in a Blended Learning Charter School

This is the tenth session that I am blogging from the 2015 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association.  Unfortunately, I had to leave the conference yesterday, but I did want to post an entry for this – and the other entries from today – so that others might contribute their notes from the session.  So, this presentation is a part of the following session:12

72.062 – Understanding the Digital Evolution in K–12 Education: Policy and Practice Perspectives
Mon, April 20, 10:35am to 12:05pm, Marriott, Fourth Level, Armitage
Session Type: Symposium

Abstract
Researchers will present diverse perspectives and research projects that examine how computing and digital tools are impacting education across states, districts, schools, and classrooms. Computer devices, digital content, video games, online learning, and models such as blended learning, are becoming an accepted part of the toolset in educational practice. There is a great need to understand how technology impacts all aspects of the K-12 education system including how for-profit and public institutions structure education options, district leaders make decisions regarding technology spending and implementation, and school leaders and teachers adopt local practices. The panelists will present research projects that illuminate key issues surrounding new technological developments in education, and frame agendas to inform research that can address these challenges.

Sub Unit
SIG-Technology as an Agent of Change in Teaching and Learning

Chair
Richard R. Halverson, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Papers
Equal Scrutiny: Data Use, Access, and Assessment in Digital Education Contracting – Annalee G. Good, University of Wisconsin – Madison; Patricia Burch, University of Southern California

K–12 Online Education: Tracing Developments in Policy and Adoption in Ohio – June Ahn, University of Maryland – College Park; Andrew McEachin, North Carolina State University

Drowning Digitally: How Disequilibrium Shapes Practice in a Blended Learning Charter School – Andrea J. Bingham, University of Southern California

Blended Learning in K–12 Education: What Do We Really Have, and Where Do We Go? – Peter Samuelson Wardrip, University of Pittsburgh; June Ahn, University of Maryland – College Park

Discussant
Patricia Burch, University of Southern California

The specific session is:

Drowning Digitally: How Disequilibrium Shapes Practice in a Blended Learning Charter School

Abstract
In recent years, there has been an increase in educational policies encouraging and supporting the development of high-tech innovative instructional practices and school models. At the forefront of this wave of educational reform is a confluence of initiatives driving the growth of personalized learning (Banister, Reinhart, & Ross, 2014; U.S. Department of Education, 2009; 2012; 2013), digital education, and educational technology in K-12 contexts (Burch & Good, 2014; Kennedy & Archambault, 2012; U.S. Department of Education, 2013; Watson, Muraw, Vashaw, Gemin, & Rapp, 2011) – each of which implies changes in school structure and design and in teachers’ instructional practices towards improved student outcomes. In this context, school models that leverage technology to deliver personalized instruction have proliferated, as has student enrollment in, and funding of such school models.

Blended learning, an educational model involving some combination of online learning and face-to-face instruction, is an increasingly common mechanism for personalizing student experiences in K-12 contexts (Staker & Horn, 2012). Because it aims to personalize students’ learning experiences, blended learning implies certain changes in teachers’ roles and practices in the classroom; teachers may work closely with a digital curriculum, provide personalized learning plans, manage individualized pacing plans, or act as a coach or tutor. Little is known, however, about how teachers manage these changes in the day-to-day contexts of their classrooms or the challenges they face in doing so. Drawing on extensive in-depth interviews, observations, and documents collected at a blended learning charter high school, this qualitative case study traces how teachers’ roles and instructional practices develop throughout the first year of the school. Specifically, this study addresses the following questions:

1. What are the expectations for teachers’ roles and instructional practices in a blended learning school with a theory of action of personalization, as described by the founder, administrators, and staff?

2. In what ways, if any, does this differ from teachers’ roles and instructional practices as executed in the classroom in the school’s inaugural year?

3.Do these roles and practices change throughout the year? If so, how do they change and what are the contextual factors influencing this change?

4. What challenges, if any, do teachers face in implementing a blended model in the school’s first year?

Findings indicate that the blended learning model broke down to varying degrees in each classroom. Teachers struggled with managing overwhelming workloads, navigating and supplementing the digital curriculum, and handling high levels of technology-use in the classroom. In response, teachers modified the blended model with teacher-centric practices and low-tech strategies, struggling to reconcile the school’s vision for teaching and learning with the day-to-day happenings in the classroom. Using Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), I identify contextual factors influencing teachers’ work in the blended classroom, and discuss implications for policymakers and practitioners. This study contributes to implementation research on blended learning models, and to the literature on personalized learning models more generally. This work also provides a foundation for future work investigating the effects of these types of innovative school models.

So if anyone has any notes from this presentation, please feel free to post them here.

AERA 2015 – K–12 Online Education: Tracing Developments in Policy and Adoption in Ohio

This is the ninth session that I am blogging from the 2015 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association.  Unfortunately, I had to leave the conference yesterday, but I did want to post an entry for this – and the other entries from today – so that others might contribute their notes from the session.  So, this presentation is a part of the following session:

72.062 – Understanding the Digital Evolution in K–12 Education: Policy and Practice Perspectives
Mon, April 20, 10:35am to 12:05pm, Marriott, Fourth Level, Armitage
Session Type: Symposium

Abstract
Researchers will present diverse perspectives and research projects that examine how computing and digital tools are impacting education across states, districts, schools, and classrooms. Computer devices, digital content, video games, online learning, and models such as blended learning, are becoming an accepted part of the toolset in educational practice. There is a great need to understand how technology impacts all aspects of the K-12 education system including how for-profit and public institutions structure education options, district leaders make decisions regarding technology spending and implementation, and school leaders and teachers adopt local practices. The panelists will present research projects that illuminate key issues surrounding new technological developments in education, and frame agendas to inform research that can address these challenges.

Sub Unit
SIG-Technology as an Agent of Change in Teaching and Learning

Chair
Richard R. Halverson, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Papers
Equal Scrutiny: Data Use, Access, and Assessment in Digital Education Contracting – Annalee G. Good, University of Wisconsin – Madison; Patricia Burch, University of Southern California

K–12 Online Education: Tracing Developments in Policy and Adoption in Ohio – June Ahn, University of Maryland – College Park; Andrew McEachin, North Carolina State University

Drowning Digitally: How Disequilibrium Shapes Practice in a Blended Learning Charter School – Andrea J. Bingham, University of Southern California

Blended Learning in K–12 Education: What Do We Really Have, and Where Do We Go? – Peter Samuelson Wardrip, University of Pittsburgh; June Ahn, University of Maryland – College Park

Discussant
Patricia Burch, University of Southern California

The specific session is:

K–12 Online Education: Tracing Developments in Policy and Adoption in Ohio

Abstract
K-12 school districts are increasingly adopting online learning and education leaders are turning toward online learning as a potential vehicle to improve K-12 education. Numerous reports from think tanks and literature from advocacy groups highlight the growing importance of online education in the K-12 sector (Watson et al., 2012). There are many hopes for its potential (Finn & Fairchild, 2012), and fears about negative impacts on public education (Molnar, 2013). It can be difficult to make sense of the online evolution taking place in K-12 education and separate the rhetoric from reasoned analyses of data. Much of the difficulty stems from the lack of empirical research that can inform the effectiveness of online education for K-12 students, when and how it occurs, and under what conditions online learning can benefit children across different developmental stages (Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, & Jones, 2010).

In this paper we seek to deepen understanding of how online education is adopted in K-12 school systems and its repercussions throughout an entire system. We present an analysis of the policy landscape and history in Ohio, as the state has enabled online or virtual schools over the past decade. In addition, we analyze an extensive, student-level dataset encompassing the entire 1.8 million student population in the state, and ranging between the years of 2010-2013. We explore several questions regarding the adoption and consequences of online learning in the K-12 system:

1. How many students are adopting online courses in the state and what are their characteristics in terms of demographic background, prior achievement, and other indicators?

2. What are the enrollment patterns that have emerged over this 4 year period; what courses and subject areas see the most enrollment and what types of courses are students taking?

3. What are the characteristics of the “home” schools and districts where students who take online options come from?

4. How do patterns of online learning adoption relate to student achievement outcomes including standardized test score measures and outcomes such as graduation?

Our analyses show how state-level policies enable an ecosystem of online course providers, virtual schools, and curricular options for students. In addition, we highlight the intricacies involved in which students take up the online option and its relationship to social inequalities, access, and student achievement. Taken together, we provide insight into how the proliferation of online learning in the K-12 education system of Ohio can have broad consequences in adoption, implementation, and student outcomes across an entire state. We conclude the presentation with suggestions for policy and future analyses of state, student-level data that can shed deeper understanding of the impact of online education in K-12 systems.

So if anyone has any notes from this presentation, please feel free to post them here.

AERA 2015 – Equal Scrutiny: Data Use, Access, and Assessment in Digital Education Contracting

This is the eighth session that I am blogging from the 2015 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association.  Unfortunately, I had to leave the conference yesterday, but I did want to post an entry for this – and the other entries from today – so that others might contribute their notes from the session.  So, this presentation is a part of the following session:

72.062 – Understanding the Digital Evolution in K–12 Education: Policy and Practice Perspectives
Mon, April 20, 10:35am to 12:05pm, Marriott, Fourth Level, Armitage
Session Type: Symposium

Abstract
Researchers will present diverse perspectives and research projects that examine how computing and digital tools are impacting education across states, districts, schools, and classrooms. Computer devices, digital content, video games, online learning, and models such as blended learning, are becoming an accepted part of the toolset in educational practice. There is a great need to understand how technology impacts all aspects of the K-12 education system including how for-profit and public institutions structure education options, district leaders make decisions regarding technology spending and implementation, and school leaders and teachers adopt local practices. The panelists will present research projects that illuminate key issues surrounding new technological developments in education, and frame agendas to inform research that can address these challenges.

Sub Unit
SIG-Technology as an Agent of Change in Teaching and Learning

Chair
Richard R. Halverson, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Papers
Equal Scrutiny: Data Use, Access, and Assessment in Digital Education Contracting – Annalee G. Good, University of Wisconsin – Madison; Patricia Burch, University of Southern California

K–12 Online Education: Tracing Developments in Policy and Adoption in Ohio – June Ahn, University of Maryland – College Park; Andrew McEachin, North Carolina State University

Drowning Digitally: How Disequilibrium Shapes Practice in a Blended Learning Charter School – Andrea J. Bingham, University of Southern California

Blended Learning in K–12 Education: What Do We Really Have, and Where Do We Go? – Peter Samuelson Wardrip, University of Pittsburgh; June Ahn, University of Maryland – College Park

Discussant
Patricia Burch, University of Southern California

The specific session is:

Equal Scrutiny: Data Use, Access, and Assessment in Digital Education Contracting

Abstract
Current policy contexts in K-12 districts incentivize, and at times require digital education tools such as online courses and assessments for students (Molnar, 2013; Sheehy, 2012; Davis, 2011). The rise of third party management and privatizing initiatives in K-12 instruction comes despite an inadequate research base on implementation of K-12 online learning and in particular, implementation in low-income settings (Means et al, 2013; Shear et al, 2012). Greater scrutiny is needed into the role of the vendor in facilitating sufficient access to high quality instructional opportunities, given the immense amount of time and financial resources districts, teachers and students commit to these digital education settings. It is within this larger context that we examine three cases of digital education contracting, asking four central questions:

1. What drives the digital curriculum?
2. What drives the digital instruction?
3. What drives assessment and access to data?
4. What is the role of the vendor in these processes?

This paper will focus on the third and fourth of these questions, detailing implications of privatization and contracting on data use, access and assessment in digital education.

We draw upon findings from three descriptive, embedded case studies of digital education: digital courses, digital schools and digital tutoring. The case of digital tutoring involves a longitudinal, mixed-method study in six urban school districts that integrates quasi-experimental analysis of impacts on student achievement with an in-depth, qualitative examination of the intervention in practice. The cases of digital courses and a blended digital school draws upon two, separate longitudinal qualitative studies using in-depth interviews, focus groups, formal observations and document analysis.

Findings from these three case studies disentangle the extent to which data and assessment is locally controlled and accessed (those in a position to integrate technology towards helping it meet students’ needs), versus centrally controlled and accessed (those selling or legislating use of technology across a wide jurisdiction), and how this is not simply a technical detail under the domain of “user permissions”. Decisions of these sort can make an enormous difference in whether and how end users such as teachers are able to see and assess student progress in digital education and review and use data generated by digital education platforms to better adapt instruction to students’ needs.

We detail examples of teachers and students not being provided with accessible, timely or accurate data on student learning, but also instances of how digital education has the potential to be transformative in terms of building new and powerful assessment structures. Through new technologies, the assessment feedback loop can be faster and offer an opportunity for assessment data to be archived in a structured record of student progress. The goal of this paper, and the larger study from which it originates, is to stem the tide of fragmented, rushed, top-down approaches to digital education and capitalize on the strengths of the technology, people, and policies to think more deeply about how the digital era is changing the worlds of teaching and public policy.

So if anyone has any notes from this presentation, please feel free to post them here.

April 19, 2015

AERA 2015 – Virtual Learning in New Zealand: Examples of Networked Schools

The seventh session that I am blogging from the 2015 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association is a part of the following session:

65.076 – Research on the Impact of Virtual Learning
Sun, April 19, 2:15 to 3:45pm, Marriott, Fourth Level, Armitage
Session Type: Paper Session

Sub Unit
SIG-Technology as an Agent of Change in Teaching and Learning

Chair
Cathy C. Leogrande, Le Moyne College

Papers
Digital Dilemmas in Dilemmatic Space(s): Analysis of a Digitalized Society – Göran Fransson, University of Gävle

Technology and Increased Self-Efficacy: Online Learning as a Solution for At-Risk Students – Somer Lewis, University of North Carolina – Wilmington; Amy E. Garrett Dikkers, University of North Carolina – Wilmington; Aimee Whiteside, University of Tampa

The Impact of Interactive, Video-Based Professional Development on the Use of Chat in Online Courses – Corinne Hyde, University of Southern California; Kimberly A. Ferrario, University of Southern California

To Teach Is to Learn Twice: Embedded Online Peer Mentoring Support in a First-Year Education Course – Norman Davis Vaughan, Mount Royal University

Virtual Learning in New Zealand: Examples of Networked Schools – Michael Kristopher Barbour, Sacred Heart University; Derek Wenmoth, Core Education Ltd; Niki Davis, University of Canterbury

Discussant
Natalie B. Milman, The George Washington University

The specific session is:

Virtual Learning in New Zealand: Examples of Networked Schools

Abstract
This proposal describes a study into the development of virtual learning in New Zealand, specifically to identify examples of networked schools. Using a variety of data collection methods, the researchers identified four examples where e-learning clusters acted as a change agent to reform classroom instruction and how schools were organised. These included where teaching online changed teachers’ classroom pedagogy, allowing flexibility within the school timetable so students could enroll in courses regardless of when the course was being “taught,” a transformation of the role of the school-based teacher from a subject matter specialist to generalist responsible for facilitating students’ learning, and re-considering the physical space to accommodate student learning in a twenty-first century networked school.

As this was my own session, I have posted the slides below.

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