Today begins week seven or the final weeks of my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom course. The students this week have a couple of blogging activities and a couple of assignments that they have to complete by the end of the week (i.e., midnight on Sunday).
The readings for this week are:
Kirkup, G. (2010). Academic blogging: Academic practice and academic identity. London Review of Education, 8(1), 75-84.
Ewins, R. (2005). Who are you? Weblogs and academic identity. E-Learning, 2(4), 368-377.
On the blogging front, they simply have to post two entries, of any kind, on any topic that interests them. The first entry should be posted by the end of the day on Wednesday, 12 August and the second entry by the end of the day on Friday, 14 August.
There are also two assignments that are due this week. The first is a Blogging Plan for the next two months. Essentially, I borrowed the activities from these two challenges:
For the second activity, they have will design an activity that uses blogs in your own classroom. I have left this assignment open-ended to allow for the variety of students and subject areas that may be taught by my BSU graduate students.
Finally, I have asked that they continue to use Twitter throughout the week, and to use the hashtag #EDTECH537 for all class related tweets.
Later this morning I will post one sample entry (a Links Entry). Tomorrow morning I will post a second sample entry (probably a Guest Blog Entry). Finally, on Wednesday morning I will post a sample entry of the Blogging Plan.
Essentially, these two items talk about the fact that cyber charter schools are being audited about overstating their attendance in an effort to get more state funding, and how these same cyber charter schools continue to perform quite poorly compared to brick-and-mortar charter schools and traditional public schools. Notions that have been simmering in Ohio (and Pennsylvania for that matter) since the early 2000s.
I continue to wonder, and am asking honestly now, why does the public (and by extension those elected to represent the public) continue to allow this to happen?
So Darren has posted the fifth challenge for this week – Create a How To Post. As a how to entry is not one of the ones I have had my EDTECH537 students create, I figure that I should mention that Darren describes a “How To Entry” as “a piece of content that is how to in nature, a how to whatever it is that you write about.” Now I’ll be honest and say that I don’t believe I’ve ever written an entry quite like this before, and I’m a day late in posting this because I was traveling yesterday, but here goes…
One of the most common things I often hear from practitioners is that research isn’t written for them. Now maybe as an academic and someone who writes a lot of this, but I don’t hold teachers in such low regard that they don’t have the ability to read and understand published research. I think it is quite pejorative to suggest that a teacher couldn’t reach a 25-30 research article and understand it. The funny – or ironic – thing is, is that I often here these kinds of statements from teachers (and moreso administrators) than I do from folks outside of education. This notion that researchers should produce bullet point implications for teachers so that they can understand these ivory tower eggheads.
What I think may be the real issue is time. It isn’t that teachers can’t understand the research, but I do believe that teachers often don’t have time (and to a lesser extent access) to read research. As I regularly teach a course in reviewing educational literature, I work with teachers that need to consume a lot of research in a short period of time to be about to produce a 20-25 page critique of that literature. Here are some of the tips – or the “how to” – that I provide them.
1. Begin by reading the abstract.
A well written abstract should provide the reader with what the study is about, why it was needed or why it was conducted, what was found, and why it is important. All of this in generally less than 150 words.
2. Move to the Conclusions or Conclusions and Implications section.
A well written Conclusions section or Conclusions and Implications section should do three things.
Provide a summary of the article, the study, and what was found.
Offer implications for practitioners in the field (i.e., as a teacher, this is what you should do).
Suggest avenues for future research (i.e., based on what I learn, here is the next study or studies I’d conduct).
3. Move to the Results or Finding section.
If there was something in the “summary of the article, the study, and what was found” that particularly interested you, go to the Results section or Findings section and read a more detailed description of what it was that had interested you. If there was nothing that specifically interested you, then skip this step.
4. Skim through the Methodology section.
As a practitioner, the main thing to be looking through here is does the researcher provide enough detail for the reader to be able to replicate the study in their own similar context (i.e., conduct this same study where they work, assuming they work in a similar environment). As a researcher (and as practitioners consume more research), I tend to examine the methodology more closely to examine its reliability and validity.
5. Review the References and Literature Review section.
As a researcher (and as practitioners consume more research), I always look through the References – as well as skim through the Literature Review section. In terms of the References, I am looking to ensure that the researcher has included the relevant literature in the field. In terms of the Literature Review section, I’m looking to ensure that the researcher has used the literature in accurate ways – as within my field, researchers often misuse or selectively use the literature.
With my own students I tell them that if they are doing steps 1, 2, and 4 – then they should be able to do that in about 5-8 minutes (10 minutes at the most). In some cases they may need to do step 3, which will add another 3-5 minutes to their review. The more research that they read, the more they’ll be able to do step 5 – but that won’t come into play until they’re read quite a bit of literature.
So Darren has posted the fourth challenge for this week – Create a Story Post. As a story entry is not one of the ones I have had my EDTECH537 students create, I figure that I should mention that Darren describes a “Story Entry” as “a piece of content that is about a story or at least that includes a story.” Now I’ll be honest and say that I don’t believe I’ve ever written a story entry before, but here goes…
Today a friend of mine forwarded a new item to me.
Ohio online charter school takes on state in court, on TV
By JULIE CARR SMYTH
AP Statehouse CorrespondentCOLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ohio’s largest online charter school has taken a dispute with state education officials over access to attendance records to the courts and the airwaves, raising questions among critics over the use of taxpayer funds to fight state regulators.
Following a judge’s order, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow said Thursday it had turned over the sought-after records to the Ohio Department of Education. The department wants to audit the records to determine full-time student enrollment and, from there, future state funding.
Before submitting the records, the school aired a pair of ads around the state painting the department in a negative light – the same department that provides 88 percent to the school’s budget, according to state records.
“If ODE closes ECOT, where will I go?” senior Summer Muhaymin asks in one spot. She describes a transient young life sleeping in bus stations and on park benches in which the Electronic Classroom has been her “only constant.” The ad concludes with the message: “Ohio Department of Education: Keep your word. Keep ECOT open.”
The ads reinforce the claims of a lawsuit filed in a Columbus court. The action alleges the Education Department is perpetrating “a bait and switch by which it seeks to evaluate and ‘readjust’ ECOT’s funding for the 2015-2016 school year based on an improperly-promulgated ‘rule.'” It claims purposeful discrimination threatening irreparable harm to the school, which issues about one of every 20 high school diplomas in Ohio.
But the fact ECOT is likely using state education dollars to fund the lawsuit and ad campaign has escalated anger among charter school critics who have long sought more restrictions and transparency in spending by the schools.
The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow or ECOT is one of the oldest cyber charter schools in Ohio (and all of the United States), and the largest cyber charter school in Ohio. It is also a cautionary tale of the role that money can play within the cyber charter school industry (and believe me when I say industry).
In an earlier entry, I remarked that “’you have to spend money to make money?’ And when it is the taxpayers’ money, why not spent as much as you need to get the job done?”
It is interesting that this story as Kasich ascended on the national stage during the Republican primaries. It is a story of corporate greed! It is a story of the failure of cyber charter schooling (and of school choice in general)! It is a story of immoral legislators interested in their own perseverance over the education of a generation of youth! It is a story about the failure of research to impact policy! And even though this saga isn’t new, it does appear to be continuing – at the taxpayers’ expense no doubt!
So Darren has posted the third challenge for this week – Create a Review Post. As a review entry is not one of the ones I have had my EDTECH537 students create, I figure that I should mention that Darren describes a “Review Entry” as “a piece of content that is in some way a review.”
Earlier today I receive notice from one of my alerts, from our institutional clipping services, and from LinkedIn (of all places, as its the first time that happened) of this article:
AUTHOR: CHRIS BERDIK, FOR THE HECHINGER REPORT.CHRIS BERDIK, FOR THE HECHINGER REPORT BUSINESS
DATE OF PUBLICATION: 08.04.16.08.04.16
TIME OF PUBLICATION: 7:00 AM.7:00 AM
INSIDE THE ONLINE SCHOOL THAT COULD RADICALLY CHANGE HOW KIDS LEARN EVERYWHERE
EMILY DUGGAN, 16, spends most afternoons at a dance studio tucked behind a shopping plaza near her home in Exeter, New Hampshire. Blond and doe-eyed, Duggan has been dancing since she was two, everything from tap to ballet. She puts in about 12 hours a week at the studio, including classes and rehearsals with the dance team for weekend competitions. Duggan also prides herself on getting good grades in school. But two years ago, the stress of managing both dance and academics overwhelmed her.
First, let me say that this is a good article that is written about one of the few cyber charter schools that I believe is actually living up to its potential (and the evidence thus far also bears that out). So my review of this article won’t focus on the overall article, but more how journalists use interviews with experts, and also feel the need to create controversy.
For some context, I was interviewed by this reporter for about an hour. Our interview went over the necessary background to the field, the differences between supplemental and full-time K-12 online learning, what we knew about student performance, the types of students often found in both environments, the role of for-profit educational management organizations or EMOs in the cyber charter world, etc.. Once we had done the “K-12 online learning 101” material (as it has been my experience that the vast majority of reporters know very little about the field – even the basics of it; they just know that there is a story here that they should be writing about), we talked about the what we knew from the research. It sort of went like this… The reporter would tell me something about VLACS and I would tell them what we knew from the research about that something – and in most cases VLACS lined up well (e.g., focus on residency, role of local support, student-teacher ratio, amount and nature of interaction, etc.). As we went through all of the things that the reporter knew about VLACS, the interview changed to where I would tell the reporter more about the “somethings” that we knew from the research and then advise the reporter on additional questions to ask about as they continued to investigate VLACS.
This all happened months ago… Today (or yesterday) the article was published and this was my contribution to it.
Some outside experts question that pay-for-performance model, either due to the risk that teachers may thumb the scale to speed student progress, or because such a system may not fully account for differences in students and subject matter.
“When you’re teaching high-ability students, a lot of these free market principles will bring you success,” said Michael Barbour, an education professor at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, who studies online learning. “But if I’m teaching algebra to at-risk students, the majority of whom have already failed it two or three times, then I’m going to have big problems with pay-for-performance. What kind of teacher will you get to teach those kids?”
But Larry Miller, dean of the school of education at Florida SouthWestern state college and a co-author of the 2015 Center for Reinventing Public Education study, pointed out that VLACS teachers get their base pay whether they hit their targets or not, and most bonuses are a marginal incentive, “in the single digits as a percentage of total salary.”
Now this isn’t an issue of whether I was misquoted, as I know I would have said that kind of thing. However, there are two issues here. The first is that for some reason journalists need to present both side of every issue. It is the reason why like 99.7% of all climate change research says that humans have an impact, but yet reporters will still find someone from that 0.3% group and give them equal airtime.
The second issue is that all the reporter has done here is present the perspectives of two people who have different opinions on an issue, but they aren’t talking about the same thing. The fact that VLACS teachers are well paid has no impact on the fact that those teachers that teach Advanced Placement courses will have a much easier time getting their bonuses each year than those teaching credit recovery. Even the amount of the bonus is portrayed in an odd way – “in the single digits as a percentage of total salary.” – and still in no way related to my comments. Let’s say that a VLACS teacher gets $50,000 (I have no idea how much they make, I’m just picking a round number). A 1% bonus is $500 (i.e., a monthly car payment on a +$40,000), while a 9% bonus is $4,500 (i.e., three months of payments on a $200,000 mortgage). But a car payment or three months of your mortgage payments or something in between are only “marginal incentive” according to Larry Miller – all unchallenged by the reporter.
Even it is was ONLY a car payment, does that address the issue of some teachers having an easier time getting this bonus simply because of they classes they are assigned? Simply put, journalists shouldn’t feel the need to give representation to people from the other side simply in this false balance. If I say “the sky is blue,” you don’t need to include someone else to come behind me and say “no it isn’t, and the earth is brown.” But reporters continue to do this time and time again… It is one of the reasons why there is so much debate that continues over school choice in general. The empirical evidence that we have about charters, vouchers, value-added, pay for performance, cyber schooling, etc. have largely found that these are not effective forms of education; and those that do show progress it has more to do with the student population OR changes in pedagogy. Yet the media will always present some student or some parent or some ideological researcher to give the other side – essentially to be the representative climate change denier. And the public continues to listen…