National Perspective: Innovation, Reform and the Online Learning Imperative


Keynote Address (Solana Grand Ballroom)
National Perspective: Innovation, Reform and the Online Learning Imperative
James H. Shelton III, Assistant Deputy Secretary, Innovation and
Improvement, U.S. Department of Education
Governor Bob Wise, Alliance for Excellent Education
Tom Vander Ark, Managing Partner, Revolution Learning

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Notes from Marcel Kielkucki, Director of HS Completion Programs, Kirkwood Community College (mkielku@kirkwood.edu)

Tuesday AM Keynote—Governor Bob Wise and James Shelton, US DOE
Remarks from Gov. Wise
-It’s a tumultuous time in both our political and educational system
2 premises:
1)The classroom is the place where major educational decisions are made
2)The other critical place where decisions are made are political office holders (local school boards up to the President of the US)
As a result, policy makers are critical in the process
Online learning can’t be the future, it needs to be in the present. We need you now.
Three looming crises:
1) Declining State Fiscal Revenues
2) Mounting Teacher Shortages
3) Increased Global Demands for Skilled Workers (in the face of low post-secondary achievement rate and dropout rates)
Fiscal revenues—For the next three years (2011-2013) state budgets are projected to decrease 4 to 8% per year.
In FY2009, general fund expenditures were $657.9 billion but in FY2010, it was $612.9 billion
Online/digital learning over time can create cost saving. For example, in WI, they can educate virtually for $6500 compared to $10,000 as the national average in the traditional system.
Teacher Shortage—we face a supply issue. In the traditional model, the teacher was the sole repository of knowledge. One-third of the current workforce of teachers will retire in the next 5-7 years. This will result in a significant drop of experience in the classroom.
In 1987-88 the typical teacher had 15 years of experience, while in 2007-2008, the typical teacher has 1-2 years of experience.
In Georgia, there are 440 high schools, but only 88 qualified physics teachers, and a number of those are getting ready to retire. Also, they have few in preparation to replace these retiring teachers. So how do we get quality content into all of those classrooms?
The role of the teacher changes to a facilitator who can individualize instruction because quality content can be provided.
Global Demands (Pipeline)—Since 1960, there has been a decrease in manual and routine tasks (assembly line) positions and an increase instead in abstract tasks (information-based economy)
It’s changed that you used to get a good paying job with just a high school diploma or not even with one, but that is no longer true today.
In 1973, 32% of jobs didn’t require a HS Diploma, 40% needed just a HS Diploma 12% and AA, 9% a BA, and 6% a graduate degree. In 2018, it is projected that only 10% of jobs will not require a diploma, 28% will require a HS diploma, 17% some college, 12% an AA, 23% a BA, and 10% a graduate degree.
How do we address this? The Digital Learning Council was launched in August 2010 and is co-chaired by former governors Bob Wise and Jeb Bush. They want to identify and promote policies to promote technological innovations and create change. It’s a diverse group from a variety of resources and backgrounds. Currently have about 100 members and have met for 70 online meetings.
Data Quality Campaign—think of the Digital Learning Council as the Data Quality Campaign on steroids.
The types of issues being discussed include online/virtual schools, personalized learning, blended learning, social networking, etc.
Issues to promote: access for all students, high quality content, utilizing providers, promoting and giving students credits, providing accountability, and funding innovative technology. The focus will be on the state and local levels.
There’s an upcoming summit on December 1, 2010 in Washington, DC—the meeting will be hosted online as well. They will announce 10 elements to guide states as a long-term roadmap that is state focused towards laws and policies.
If we don’t make changes, 3 out of every 10 students will not graduate from high school and another 3 will not graduate college/work-ready. We could get by with the 4 that made it. However, with the changing economy 90% of the fastest growing jobs requiring post-secondary education, we need to make change because we need the 6 in 10 that aren’t being prepared.
We can do what we’ve always done with less, or we can embrace the moment. Ask yourself—where do you want to be in 4 years? Be boldly innovative or badly irrelevant.
Remarks from James Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary, US Dept. of Education
Budgets and the challenges today are really a great opportunity.
The reality is that schools have been failing for a long time.
We now have an opportunity to rethink the system—we must make a change—no one can stand on the sidelines
Two parts to the bad news story:
1) The half-life on skills is becoming shorter (What you know today is becoming more irrelevant each day—that’s why it’s important to be a lifelong learner.)
2) You can be lulled into a false sense of security by seeing the jobs that are still left without requiring higher education, but those are going to continue to slip away.
What can the federal government do? They can provide capacity ($), focus, and context. What is that going to look like? The Secretary of Education wants to make the department into an innovation engine. It has 3 parts:
1) Help identify and create solutions to persistent problems by pull out or develop innovations that can go to scale (Innovation Fund—nearly 1700 initiatives were funded)
2) The federal government still is the largest funder of education, and can use the policies it creates to help encourage innovation—reward growth, give flexibility, and be prescriptive when necessary. Create incentives for trying new things that can improve the status quo.
3) Early childhood centers and out-of-school time, as well as post-secondary transition are important
Aspirations are outstripping resources, so we need to figure out how to do things differently today, and most sectors have turned to technology. Online learning can be that technology. We ask teachers to do a lot each and every day. Let’s match them with the tools they need to help keep engaged in the learning process, and extend the power of teachers by helping them personalize education.
Online learning can extend the reach of good teachers, and also expand opportunities for all students regardless of geographic location.
ESRA—Creates the R &D portion of the US DOE. In education we spend .1% on Research and Development, compared to 5% in general fields, and up to 20% in innovative fields. What online learning needs is a data trail to demonstrate its benefits.
Resource Allocation decisions are really driven by the people with power. While the seeds to change education are present, public work is political whether you like it or not. They require a level of engagement and advocacy by all those involved.
Q/A Portion
Question 1: Online learning has had success despite the odds stacked against them in many instances, and they have not had a lot of help from Washington, DC. (lack of presence in I3, RRT, etc.) Why?
Shelton response—Reality is that there was a big opportunity in the I3 and RTT programs. Congress was very nervous because they felt it was “play money” for the secretary. Because of that, the first round of funding focused on items that were politically safe. Fy11 budget will focus on things that are focused on technology.
Wise response—We have work to do because people don’t get online learning. A big battle is coming because of the budget discussions on deficit reductions over existing resources (formula resources such as Title I.) Do you stick with the formula you know, or do you chip some off for competitive resources? It will be difficult due to political nature of the discussion. On the positive side, look at all the education reforms states did in order to qualify for RTT funding. Challenge will be to stick with the changes made in the face of not having RTT funding.
Question2 (for Gov. Wise) People were nervous about embracing the idea that online learning can save money. How should we think about this?
Response: If you’re just about saving costs, there’s not much of a discussion. Instead, show how you can improve education through innovation, and then demonstrate the cost-savings because initially it’s an investment that will pay off in the long-run. Say without online learning, you’ll spend more for less return.
Response from Shelton: The National Education Technology Plan was just released. If you can demonstrate improvement in productivity, it will help in the competitive process for new funding opportunities.
Question 3: Competency-Based Learning—can’t it change everything?
Response from Wise: Yep! Nothing original happens in DC that is not bounced back from state/local levels. State and local changes will lead to changes in the federal level.
Shelton: This is one that has to be done on a state/local level but it has to also be coupled with a funding discussion. Has to show it’s a smart decision for student outcomes and student productivity. It also opens the door for additional learning opportunities for students.


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