80 Percent of K-12 Schools Now Using Digital Content

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

A study by ASCD and Overdrive, Inc.,1 is being released today (1 April 2016). Digital Content Goes to School: Trends in K–12 Classroom E-Learning is available for download here. Here are some of the highlights:

1. More than 80 percent of K-12 schools and districts are now using some form of digital content — including eBooks, audiobooks and digital textbooks — in the classroom.

2. Of the 80 percent of respondents who report using digital content in their schools or districts, four out of 10 are using it as part of their curriculum.

3. Devices used for digital content: laptops (75 percent), tablets (62 percent), personal computers (49 percent), and smartphones (17 percent).

4. Contributors to this growth include recognized benefits such as the ability to deliver individualized instruction, allowing students to practice independently, and greater student attention/engagement.

5. As digital content continues to transform the classroom, the concept of a personalized, individualized model of schooling becomes more feasible, according to the report.

6. “Devices bring more knowledge to students’ fingertips than the teacher can give, so the traditional lecture model is no longer applicable. We want content that will engage students and the ability to introduce flipped classrooms with content that students can access at any time, at any place” (Kahle Charles, executive director of curriculum, St. Vrain Valley Schools, Longmont, Colorado).

7. The two issues cited most often were equity concerns about lack of Internet access at home and the fear of teachers not wanting to go digital, including teachers not comfortable or effective with digital learning.

8. Across the board, teachers most desire English/Language Arts (ELA) content in digital format (74 percent), followed by science (62 percent), math (61 percent) and social studies (56 percent).

9. Survey respondents report that digital content currently occupies about one-third of the instructional materials budget and the use of digital content continues to grow.

10. This report is based on a survey of more than 2,000 administrators at the school or district level in the U.S.

1 Overdrive, Inc., is a provider of eBook and audiobook platforms for schools.

Seven Fallacies of Teaching Programming in K-12

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

[See Harry’s related articles: Is Building Apps for Everyone?, Need More Software Engineers? Teach Thinking Skills Better, and  ‘Computer Science’ Contains Little or No Science. -Editor]

Many educators seem to be promoting the benefits and even the necessities of teaching computer science courses before high school graduation. I have not seen any of these people suggest which courses to eliminate to make room for this new course. Despite this, many suggest that computer science (mostly translates to computer programming) be a required subject.

I have seen some say that writing software should begin in kindergarten. Others decry its absence from middle schools. Finally, quite a few lobby for adding it to high school curricula. As you might expect, the origin of each is from practitioners in each. Exposure to the basic concepts of computers, what you might call the “nature of computing,” is a good idea, but the rising din of voices telling us to add computer programming classes throughout our public education system should be tempered by reality.

Much of the pressure comes from just a few arguments and assumptions. Most of these are fallacies. I list some below and explain them.

1. There is a huge job shortage and high demand for computer programmers.

This may be the most recurrent theme for those promoting computer programming in schools. There are two problems with this argument. Large businesses, the ones making the most noise, are inflating their numbers to further this bit of misinformation. Also, the numbers do not indicate the level of programming skill required for these jobs.

The reason for the inflation is simple: H1-B visas. By importing computer programmers from other countries, these huge companies can keep costs down in two ways. They pay those H1-B programmers very low wages. You’ll find the workers sharing small two-bedroom houses with as many as ten people in them. Secondly, low wages for the immigrants help to keep wages of our citizens low as well.  Continue reading

Cyberlearning Summit 2014: A Quick Recap

VicSutton80By Vic Sutton

[Note: See Bonnie Bracey Sutton’s report. -Editor]

There is reportedly a wealth of research being conducted unto cyberlearning, but there are no clear views about how to translate research results into action in the community context, in particular for schools or informal education.

This emerged from the recent Cyberlearning Summit held in Madison, Wisconsin, on 9-10 June 2014, which brought together some 200 participants — mostly academics, plus some educators, industry representatives and grant makers — to highlight “advances in the design of technology-mediated learning environments, how people learn with technology, and how to use cyberlearning technologies to effectively shed light on learning.”

Bonnie's photos

There was no discussion about quite what cyberlearning is, but it appears to be a fancy name for on-line learning.

The meeting was organized by the Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning (CIRCL), funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and featured a number of eminently qualified speakers.

Yasmin Kafai, from the University of Pennsylvania, reminded participants of the remark by the late Steve Jobs that “everybody in this country should learn to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.”  Continue reading

Unite or Die

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

For at least two centuries, education has been divided up into separate compartments. In most recent educational history, the so-called core compartments or “subjects” have been social studies, English (now known as English language arts or ELA), mathematics, and science. Along side these have been physical education and a number of other artistic or artisan activities such as music, drama, art, and woodworking.

A great number of educators have noticed that this separation has made less and less sense as time has passed. Similar issues exist within these disciplines. For example, my own area of science was divided up long ago into physics (the original natural philosophy encompassing motion, light, and other physical phenomena such as electricity and magnetism), chemistry (changes in matter), and biology (study of living things that was mostly limited to classification in its earliest days). Biology has changed enormously and now no longer depends on classification. Understanding chemistry requires plenty of physics and often heavy-duty mathematics. And so it goes.

If we are to educate our youth, we must break down the artificial barriers between the compartments formed so long ago. They make little sense these days.

For example, mathematics and science are kept separate in our schools, and their teachers are trained separately. Yet, mathematics, as taught in grades K-12, is mostly applied mathematics at its heart. It was created for commerce, engineering, and surveying. Calculus was created for science. These connections are lost in most mathematics courses. Once you’ve learned to count, that is, learned the names of the numbers, the rest follows logically as you begin to figure out the world around you. Were science and math merged into a double-period class, it could make much more sense to students — especially if engineering is included in science, and commerce is included in math.  Continue reading

Understanding the Brain, Flipped Teaching, Suicide Prevention, Common Core Shifts


University of Chicago MOOCing in a big way… a free MOOC, Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life (Coursera), begins on April 28. According to Hannah Nyhart and Steve Koppes, “enrollment for [the] course has reached 27,000 and climbing” (“Neurobiology Online Course to Attempt World’s Largest Memory Experiment,” Medical Press, 4/23/14). Last fall, the university’s Asset Pricing MOOC enrolled 41,000 and Global Warming, 15,000.

Getting What You Pay For? A Look at America’s Top-Ranked Public Universities (ACTA, April 2014) is available for download. Here’s a quote from the 75-page document: “In a 2013 survey of over 300 employers, 93% of the executives responded that critical thinking, clear communication skills, and problem solving ability are more important to them than the undergraduate major. A majority called upon colleges to put more emphasis on writing, science, and mathematics, and over 40% called for greater emphasis on foreign language proficiency” (8). If you’ve been following studies such as this, you’re probably thinking, So what else is new. Seems the year is interchangeable, with the results remaining constant.

In an email conversation earlier this morning re this ACTA report, Harry Keller said, “At least in K-12 education, we should … merge these into a single curriculum that reaches into ELA, math, and science and that uses, as necessary, art, engineering, history, etc.” I agreed with Harry. The separation of subjects to fit schooling is unnatural. In the real world, they’re all part of a whole. Teachers have tried team teaching and interdisciplinary approaches to simulate an integrated approach, but these are always awkward and, IMHO, not sustainable. The integration has to be within the teacher. The implication for schools is flipped teaching — instead of teaching from the inside (classroom) out, they would be teaching from the outside (real world) in. This would also mean a whole new breed of teachers, with significant background in the arts and sciences as well as skill in bringing the different disciplines together in seamless learning activities in a way that’s similar to the project-learning approach.

Engaging College Students in Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention (Kognito and Active Minds)… “a free one-hour webinar to discuss best practices for engaging and training students in gatekeeper skills” and suicide prevention. Scheduled for Wed, Apr 30, 2014, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM EDT. A second webinar is scheduled for Fri, May 2, 2014, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT. Hopefully they’ll include a segment on detecting the need for help among students enrolled in online courses.

The Most Challenging Instructional Shifts in the CCSS for English/Language Arts (Education Week)… a free webinar with an emphasis on changing the way students think as well as instruction and administration. “Four of the most challenging shifts” are: Emphasis on Academic Vocabulary, Complex Text, Close Reading, and Greater Emphasis on Informational Text. Scheduled for May 1, 2014, 2 to 3 p.m. ET. As an online teacher, I’ve learned that the ability to read, correctly interpret, remember, and apply textual information is the most important skill for students in online classes.

Flipping Without Flopping: A Three-Year Study. Real Results (Echo 360)… a free webinar. Two separate sessions, May 8 for US/Europe at 11am EDT and May 14 for ANZ/Asia at 11am AEST. Review the research.