Monday, December 14, 2009

TIES 2009: Michael Horn Q and A

For the second session at TIES 2009, I decided to listen in on the Question and Answers with today's Keynote Speaker, Michael Horn.

Q:The first question for Dr. Horn revolved around the current model of classifying students by grade levels. Do we have a "classification scism" in K-12 education.
A:Horn agreed with this, but said that the current model, in place for the last 100 years, has a social component with promotion. At the same time, as we "socially promote".
As we move to a more student centered environment, we can still organize students socially, but instead of calling it, "3rd grade", we gear it toward what they are learning. If we decouple online learning and time, making it less about seat time and "Carnegie Units", this will be huge.

Q: EHS Assistant principal, Eric Nelson asked how are districts moving to more online learning dealing with bargaining units?
A:Horn said that where it's been most successful is in carving out new ways of looking at online learning, separate from face to face contracts.

Q: Is the 1 teacher to many students model disappearing?
A:Teachers will still have a critical role, but less "egg crate" structure, more open spaces, teachers working with small groups, and less one size fits all lesson plans. Less "sage on the stage", more "guide on the side. " Content experts will live virtually anywhere, but motivators will be in the classroom. There will be many different roles. He quoted a study from Western Governors University, which uses a competency model of learning. Teachers there hated the day to day mentoring, and wanted to focus on content. The masters level teachers worked to keep people on pace and handle the day to day duties.

Q:What does research show on students using online learning for credit recovery?
A: One aspect is that the online learning has been better than face to face, as long as mentorship and support is there for the students. Also, the credits have to Count! A little less self-paced as before, but scaffolding support in a self-paced environment.

Q: Is there a conflict between an online learning/student centered learning and the standards based movement?
A: Horn said there is a difference between standardization and standards. Standards don't tell us how to get there, they tell us what a student should be able to know and do. He thinks the Gates Foundation's focus on fewer, better, higher is a model that is moving in the right direction, giving more flexibility to the system. It might allow for someone to say, "You seem to be getting X, what would you like to learn more about?", more personalized learning. An audience member argued that the methods of measuring learning need to remain open, and not locked in to standardized tests. Horn agreed, and said if you measure the same way, you'll get the same looking delivery. He said the new "Race to the Top" initiative is showing promise of giving different models for assessment. The online learning community is showing different methods for students to demonstrate their learning. Charter schools have run into difficulty because they were forced to work with the same clientel, not trying to reach different learners.

Q: "Standards are written for K-12 students," what needs to happen for pre-K to disrupt enough for kids at that level to be ready for the K-12 experience.
A: Horn said educational research is very clear that students who are not Kindergarten ready, require exponential resources to catch them up. How do we get them there? " He likes the work of the Harlem Children's Zone, and thinks that model may be part of the solution. He also wonders whether a legion of "Baby Boomer" volunteers at the pre-school level would be a way to disrupt the current system, and get kids ready. "Sesame Street was one of the biggest disruptions to education that we have ever had." He's looking for more suggestions!

Horn says that IBM and Dayton's/Target are examples of businesses who were able to ride the disruptive innovation wave. He thinks some zones will need to be set up with autonomy (Christiansen says total, Horn says a mix) to change education. He admits that their book is not very good at the "How" in education.

Q: With the advent of online learning, and reluctance by some to try it, how do you move administrators in that direction?
A: Horn said that as he travels around, administrators think teachers don't get it, and teachers think administrators don't get it! What is needed is professional development and dialog. He mentions the "Keeping Pace" report, that cronicles the current state of online learning.

He shared the story of Intel's CEO Andy Grove calling Christiansen in and saying "you have 10 minutes to tell me what needs to happen!" The Celeron chip came out of that discussion, bringing in a lower level chip.

Q: As you look at the best schools out there right now, getting their kids into the best schools, how do they stay on top?
A: Look for the small little zones, ask questions like, "Who aren't we serving?" They don't settle. They continue to innovate.

Q: When you assess people online, how can you be sure that they are the ones doing the work?
A: Moving to a hybrid approach will allow for some interaction to evaluate student abilities. More communication and teacher intuition, and technology is improving to the point of being able to tell if someone is processing at a different rate, which can flag for the instructor.
One of the things students want is to see their progress and feel success. If we weave in these opportunities for feedback, it will take some of the social stigma out of the face to face experience and empower students to do their own work.

Q: Despite AP's claim that they are moving to higher level thinking, they are still primarily knowledged based. With 21st century skills seeming in conflict with covering the content, how can we merge the two?
A: Horn thinks the us vs. them aspect of content and 21st century skills is one of the silliest things going right now. As students evaluate, create, share and assess content, they will be tying their learning to both, and we'll look back on this as a silly argument. If we stick to a mastery based system, then you'll be able to tie a data system around formative assessment that drives instructional models and informs learning.

Q: What are the implications for districts who are finding their lowest students being immigrants and people of color? What are the opportunities, what are the pitfalls?
A: With greater individualization, we can meet the students where they are. The challenge is that currently, most of the online curriculum is text based. By implementing Universal design principals, with text to speech in their language, this will improve. He mentioned Apex Learning, and that people complain it's too rigorous. They have introduced literacy based courses at the 8th and 9th grade level to address this.

"One of the greatest ways I learn, is by hearing from people in the field about what we don't know." mhorn@innosightinstitute.org


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