Colliding Forces

Jeffery F. Billings
Technology Director Paradise Valley Unified School District March, 2008 • iPhone: 480.593.1932 •

Transhumanism: Merging with Technology -

Evolution from the industrial era to the “Knowledge Economy” is yielding colliding forces between educational institutions, worldwide. This evolution has been brought on largely through Internet convergence by utilizing resources such as: online courses, electronic textbooks, adaptive assessment, and multimedia communication tools; all of which contribute to fundamental changes in the way curriculum, assessment and instruction can now be delivered. Those educational institutions that recognize and adapt to these changes will survive and help mold the future. Institutions that don’t embrace the change will likely become marginalized, supporting but a select subset of their former client base. Public secondary education, in particular, can no longer rely solely on captured enrollment funding from “neighborhood schools”. The first wake up call in Arizona was the “charter” movement. The second, and the bigger, is going to be online education. Secondary education and learning is morphing into an anytime, anywhere choice, with trends in choice suggesting an increasing role of technology and online services1. Local online charters, out of state online high schools, online community colleges in various enrollment models, and national and international universities are all now successfully competing and colliding for the secondary-education dollar.
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Changing Conditions
Post-Secondary In a recent visit to the Microcomputers in Education ’08 conference, a presentation titled, “From OpenUniversitites into MegaLearning Ecosystems”2, yielded some of the motivation for this paper. An eye-opening glimpse of what is transpiring in Europe is provided by Dr. Ali Ozkul from Anadolu University in Turkey. The European Union is collaborating on delivery of post-secondary education, increasing their online and virtual models to be more global in perspective and reach. A worthy and intelligent goal given the Information Age and The Knowledge Economy. In 1969, the first “Open University” launched in the United Kingdom3. Tied to the technology of the time, mail, and throughout the 20th century, television, the university grew at a rate restricted by the technology. With increasing Internet usage, current growth is rapidly expanding, and it is now the largest university in the UK4, servicing learners from around the world. The enrollment success of this movement is so strong that other international universities are responding in kind, coining the term “Mega University”. Anadolu University is one such university, with over 40% of the college-going, national population enrolled in the university, most of that, online. There are currently over fifty “Mega Universities” throughout the world2, and the transformational impact from technology, coupled with the business model of “Open Universities”, is largely responsible. What makes “Open
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Universities” unique is the attempt to accredit each other, course for course, and the policy that regardless of age or previous educational experience, if one can pass the entrance exam, one can enroll. No high school diploma, no passing of AIMS test, etc., is necessary. A PVUSD 10th grader could, if passing the entrance exam, enroll at an international, open university. Currently, some U.S. post-secondary institutions, like San Jose State University (SJSU), are exploring the open movement, as one can now enroll and receive credit for any college course, without being formerly “admitted” to SJSU5. Countless other universities are exploring differing models, such as the rapid increase of online courses at Arizona State University1, the all online potential of Indiana University’s 90/30 program6, Maricopa County Community College’s “Early College” program7, etc.. All yield a blurring of formerly discrete market layers, brought on by the need/desire to compete in the flattening Knowledge Economy, resulting in large part from increased Internet usage. Spin-offs of the Open University movement include the Open Courseware initiative at Massachusetts Institute of Technology8. Entire coursework by some of the best minds in the world are provided for free, along with digitized lectures, class notes, lesson plans, references, and the like. The Open Courseware initiative is being enriched through the addition of many more universities, companies, and individuals. Rich content using the iTunes U portal9 is being delivered for free, to any individual, any institution. Universities like Duke, Berkeley, University of Michigan, and ASU contribute. PVUSD itself is leading this charge by being the first K12 in the world to actively publish and deliver their curricular content and instructional practices using this venue. This freely available content is generally provided through Creative Commons10 licensing. The “open” nature of Creative Commons is transformational, as under the licensing, others are free to remix, reuse, or redistribute the content. Having free, rich content in turn causes proindustries. What does the professor of the postthe course content already made and available? to do less of, do more of, in the future? How tent so readily available to them and their clients? Secondary Influence from the successes at post-secondary level are starting to emerge in secondary education as well. Institutions such as Anadolu University, Stanford, and MIT are but a few examples of successful entrance into the secondary market. The early-entry models vary from a large MegaUniversity (e.g., Anadolu) with an “Open High School”2, to targeting “gifted” high school students11 (e.g., Stanford), to online offerings of specific high school subjects such as science and math12 (e.g., MIT). These institutions will no doubt fully exploit technology to transform the K12 market space, similar to what’s transpiring in post-secondary. PVUSD should therefore continue to aggressively compete for value added in this new delivery of education, or face market restrictions. Not just the curriculum, it is now possible for the secondary student to receive one on one instructional support from a qualified expert from international companies, like Tutor Vista. Heralded13 by the likes of “The Today Show” and “The New York Times”, Tutor Vista represents a significant commercial and international entry to capitalize on the Internet for anytime, anywhere, student instruction. For approximately $100 per month (note quantity procurement reduces rates further), any student can receive unlimited “one on one” tutoring, using audio/ video conferencing, digital white boards, etc., on any subject, anywhere, anytime. Using free curricular content from
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found impacts to the education and publishing secondary market look like in the future, with What will the secondary teacher of today need will institutions respond with curricular con-


the likes of MIT or Stanford, and the instructional support model of an entity like Tutor Vista, how does a $33 per hour PVUSD tutor or teacher compete? Is the quality of our current teaching so strong that the market will continue to enroll secondary students at our neighborhood schools 3 years, 7 years, or 15 years from now? Will our current model of secondary school start times of 7:30 am, and 50 minute bell schedules, be able to withstand the flexibility of anytime, anywhere access? How can PVUSD compete with a high school student getting national or international college credit for the same time commitment? Suggested PVUSD Action Recommendations to position PVUSD for future market space, include: 1) Continue lobbying efforts to the Arizona Legislature and the Governor’s Office for expansion of TAPBI (Technology Assisted Project Based Instruction) to include PVUSD. Articulation might include expansion for more participants, or allowing all Local Education Agencies to openly compete in the market. While trying to edge the lobbying process on is important, PVUSD should not wait on legislative action/inaction before positioning its future. 2) Begin to transform our secondary instruction to provide digital curricula from venues like iTunes U, yielding rich, college-going content in all secondary classes (not just “alternative” courses); • Physics lectures on Newton’s Laws from Stanford University15. • Stoichiometric Chemistry from the University of Houston16. • Molecular Biology from MIT17. • Introduction to Communication from Arizona State University18. 3) Evolve Distancia to use the already available content targeted specifically for the secondary space, rather than relying so heavily on self-created content. Said content might include the examples below; • K12 Educational Commons19 for some elective courses, using Open Source software - INGOTS using OpenOffice for international certification (Business), Inkscape for Vector Graphics and Publishing, GIMP and Flickr (Digital Photography). • HippoCampus20 - funded by the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education - housing dozens of secondary courses like Physics, Algebra, Calculus, American Government, Psychology, Religion, Environmental Sciences, where all courses are relationally linked to the content of major secondary textbooks. • ChemCollective.org21 - funded by the National Science Foundation - free and available - dozens of online simulations, virtual labs, scenarios, concepts and assessments. 4) Raise content rigor in core subjects within Distancia, by using entry-level collegiate courses, freely available through the Open Educational Resources22 concept, with some examples provided below; • Evolution 10123 - Berkeley University.
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• Courses through the Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI24) offering; Physics, Statistics, French, Logic, Biology, Economics, Engineering Statics, etc.. • Fully embrace the hundreds of online units and courses through the U.K’s Open University2 initiative, with core curricular and elective topics, substantially covered, and free. 5) Consideration should be given towards how best to ingrain online learning, using systems/tools like Distancia, into the core culture and services of secondary learning throughout all PVUSD learning environments. Specifically, PVUSD should consider positioning online learning beyond the alternative, supplementary, or community education models, evolving it quickly to be part of all instructional delivery. 6) PVUSD should develop a course of action to acquire funding sources; including resources from, federal and philanthropic grants, business consortiums and leading institutions. Professional networking, forward thinking and robust partnerships will be critical to advancing in the 21st-century, secondary education market.

Current public education practices of being a facility-based and tenured position enterprise, doesn’t make sense in the Global Economy. The pricing model can not compete with free content from renown sources, and instant access to globally-priced content experts from China, India, Europe. The challenge becomes not just increasing the educational value within our walls and bricks, but extending value beyond the physical constraints of space and time. In essence, how do we become the best at online teaching and learning, be it completely online, and/or a hybrid model of face to face with online. Moving from an analog culture to a digital enterprise may require eliminating decades of institutionalized practices, like master scheduling, textbook adoptions, whole-group instruction, calendaring and start times based on transportation fleets, and relying on funding based solely on captured (for now) attendance. Embracing online models of instructional delivery and competing in new arenas using technology tools and methods must become culturally ingrained. We must transform rules, policies, associations, and long held beliefs that because we are “public educators” we are somehow entitled to an exclusive right to provide secondary learning in the 21st century. The competition gauntlet for the Knowledge Economy in this Information Age has been thrown before K-12, and certainly the public secondary profession. Curricular content, the “what”, is becoming readily available through diverse channels and free, using practices such as Creative Commons. Further, the digital nature of the content is such that multiple representations and numerous media types can in fact accelerate, enhance and differentiate the learning process. PVUSD is beginning to use free, digital content, but it should be our practice norm, not an exception. Pressure to terminate or significantly alter the practice of “textbook adoptions”, should be immediately applied throughout the enterprise and planning processes. PVUSD should also immediately develop and refine best practices of online instructional frameworks and scaffolding, the “how”, of our product. This includes development on how best to use resources like Distancia, and consensus of pedagogy using online systems in general. A credible example of the instructional phase of the open and onP V U S D / J e f f B i l l i n g s E v o l u t i o n To K n o w l e d g e E c o n o m y


line movement is examplified by Carnegie Mellon, through their Open Learning Initiative24 below: There, Carnegie Mellon depicts how post-secondary is systemically responding to changing “instructional” times through the use of online practices. Their continual refinement is guided by the principle stated by Herbert Simon, Carnegie Mellon, “Improvement in post-secondary education will require converting teaching from a ‘solo sport’ to a community-based research activity”. The use of technology to service the markets of post-secondary and secondary education is blurring on a local through international scale, as the thirst to provide information, knowledge, and learning become economic drivers of the 21st Century. What better institution than PVUSD to help lead the way?

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Billings, Jeffery F. & Baumgartner, Timothy, January 2007 - Call to Legislatively Enact eLearning for All of Arizona’s Secondary Level (9-12) Students and Schools: Findings of Student Achievement Research in Comparing eLearning to Traditional, Face to Face Learning Environments, Paradise Valley Unified School District - Internal Report

Microcomputers in Education 2008, Arizona State University - From Open Universities into MegaLearning Ecosystems, Ali Ozkul, Anadolu Univerity -
2 3 4 5 6 7 8

United Kingdom - Open University - Wikipedia - SanJose State University - Indiana University - 90/30 program - Maricopa Community College - Paradise Valley Community College - personal dialog

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Open Courseware

Apple Computers - iTunes U - Creative Commons - Stanford University - EPGY Open High School -

10 11 12

Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Open Courseware for High School
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Tutor Vista - Distancia - PVUSD’s Online Portal -

Stanford University - Introduction to Physics =1232809756 University of Houston - Stoichiometric Chemistry

Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Molecular Biology

Arizona State University - Introduction to Communication
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K12 Educational Commons - HippoCampus - -

OER - Open Educational Resources Commons - clearinghouse promoting open resources for education
23 24

Berkeley University - Evolution 101 - Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative -
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