Category Archives: Technology

A story about iPad-schools in the Netherlands

Quite often you can see hurray-news being spread virally when discussing technology in education, when things go wrong or turn out less successful than planned news suddenly seem to go much less viral although you will always be able to find people who like a dig at technology-driven reform. I do think that sharing stories about reform-attempts that didn’t go so well is important. Not to say ‘haha’ or ‘duh’, but to learn from those cases. Think of it as a kind of air crash investigation, maybe we should have make such a team.

This weekend Dutch newspaper Het Parool brought a reconstruction how a new school ‘De Ontplooiing’ in Amsterdam went horribly wrong. This school has become famous as one of the very first Steve Jobs schools in the Netherlands, a school vision that heavily relied on the iPad. People from all over the world came to visit this flagship school and one of the people behind this O4NT-vision still sells this story around the globe.

But… this school is in bad shape. Het Parool describes a couple of things:

  • One element has nothing to do with the school in itself: some of the children who were brought to the school were children who were having trouble already in their original schools. This is difficult for any new school to handle.
  • There was strong vision on personalized learning, but… to much freedom, combined with floating hours, made it very difficult for children to learn. In the newspaper there are testimonies how children leaving this school who go back to ‘normal’ schools are way behind in math and reading as it was not that important.
  • Over the half of the other Steve Jobs schools in the Netherlands have left the original vision. Often not because they didn’t like the vision or because it didn’t work, but because it became to expensive to use the software and the vision of the organization.

When you look at the first element, this is something the school or the O4NT-vision couldn’t help, but the second and third element is something different. A air crash investigation team would mention probably how some of the school leaders involved were lacking experience. They would maybe also mention that the for profit-idea in education maybe didn’t help. “Lack of vision” wouldn’t be mentioned as there was truly a vision that was more than ‘use an iPad’. Some of the educational scientists in the team would point out that parts of this vision was doomed from the start, but this would probably remain a discussion, as it has been for over decades – long before the iPad was made. There are more school approaches with a lot of freedom, with strong defenders and as strong opponents.

The sad thing is – as Paul Kirschner pointed out on Twitter – that this has been experiment that went wrong for a lot of children. An experiment that never would have been possible if it were a real scientific experiment as it would never would have passed an ethical committee. Maybe the air crash investigation team could write up what not to do when trying new experiments like this. Not to make experimenting impossible, but just to make sure the changes for a next plain crashing (think Altschool, think Carpe Diem) would diminish.

(I’ve written quite a lot about these schools in the past, but most of it in Dutch. Check here and here. There is a translate button on the blog).

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Good read: Silicon Valley Tried to Reinvent Schools. Now It’s Rebooting

Found this non-surprising Bloomberg-article via Tom Bennett. Why am I not surprised, well because I’ve written about this before: the technology often overlooks the old roots of what they are saying. Many of the ideas have been tried before… But also because of what Morozov has coined as solutionism, the naive idea that there are easy – often technological – solutions for complex problems.

But read the article for yourself, this is an excerpt:

The education system is one of the few industries that has resisted technological reinvention. It’s not for a lack of capital. Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Netflix Inc.’s Reed Hastings, Salesforce.com Inc.’s Marc Benioff and many others have poured money into reform efforts, with mixed results. Zuckerberg backed a program similar to AltSchool at Summit Public Schools, a U.S. charter school network that uses Facebook technology.

I’m suddenly wondering, is education that last one small village in Armorica that isn’t under control of the Roman Facebook Empire?

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A new form of self-harm: cyberbullying yourself

I hadn’t heard this one before, according to this new paper a new form of self-harm in youth has emerged and is cause for concern. The behavior: ‘digital self-harm’ or ‘self-trolling,’ where adolescents post, send or share mean things about themselves anonymously online. The concern: it is happening at alarming rates and could be a cry for help. This new FAU study is the first to examine the extent of this behavior and is the most comprehensive investigation of this understudied problem and I was quite surprised to see that in a big sample 6% actually did this kind of self-harm.

From the press release:

Adolescents harming themselves with cuts, scratches or burns has gained a lot of attention over the years not just because of the physical damage and internal turmoil, but also because it has been linked to suicide. More recently, a new form of self-harm in youth has emerged and is cause for concern, warns a researcher and bullying expert from Florida Atlantic University.

The behavior: “digital self-harm,” “self-trolling,” or “self-cyberbullying,” where adolescents post, send or share mean things about themselves anonymously online. The concern: it is happening at alarming rates and could be a cry for help.

A new FAU study is the first to examine the extent of this behavior and is the most comprehensive investigation of this understudied problem.

“The idea that someone would cyberbully themselves first gained public attention with the tragic suicide of 14-year-old Hannah Smith in 2013 after she anonymously sent herself hurtful messages on a social media platform just weeks before she took her own life,” said Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., study author, a professor in FAU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the College for Design and Social Inquiry, and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. “We knew we had to study this empirically, and I was stunned to discover that about 1 in 20 middle- and high-school-age students have bullied themselves online. This finding was totally unexpected, even though I’ve been studying cyberbullying for almost 15 years.”

Hinduja and his collaborator from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D., recently published results of their study in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

They used a nationally representative sample of 5,593 middle and high school students between the ages of 12 and 17 years old living in the United States to find out how many youth participated in digital self-harm, as well as their motivations for such behavior. They also examined if certain correlates of offline self-harm also applied to digital forms of self-harm.

Results of the study show that nearly 6 percent of the teens reported that they had anonymously posted something mean about themselves online. Among these, about half (51.3 percent) said they did it just once, about one-third (35.5 percent) said they did it a few times, while 13.2 percent said they had done it many times.

Boys were more likely to participate in this behavior (7 percent) compared to girls (5 percent). Their reasons, however, varied dramatically. Boys described their behavior as a joke or a way to get attention while girls said they did it because they were depressed or psychologically hurt. This finding is especially worrisome for the researchers as there may be more of a possibility that this behavior among girls leads to attempted or completed suicide.

To ascertain motivations behind the behavior, the researchers included an open-ended question asking respondents to tell them why they had engaged in digital self-harm. Most comments centered around certain themes: self-hate; attention seeking; depressive symptoms; feeling suicidal; to be funny; and to see if anyone would react. Qualitative data from the study showed that many who had participated in digital self-harm were looking for a response.

Age and race of the respondents did not differentiate participation in digital self-harm, but other factors did. Teens who identified as non-heterosexual were three times more likely to bully themselves online. In addition, victims of cyberbullying were nearly 12 times as likely to have cyberbullied themselves compared to those who were not victims. Those who reported using drugs or participating in deviance, had depressive symptoms, or had previously engaged in self-harm behaviors offline were all significantly more likely to have engaged in digital self-harm.

“Prior research has shown that self-harm and depression are linked to increased risk for suicide and so, like physical self-harm and depression, we need to closely look at the possibility that digital self-harm behaviors might precede suicide attempts,” said Hinduja. “We need to refrain from demonizing those who bully, and come to terms with the troubling fact that in certain cases the aggressor and target may be one and the same. What is more, their self-cyberbullying behavior may indicate a deep need for social and clinical support.”

Abstract of the study:

Purpose

Despite increased media and scholarly attention to digital forms of aggression directed toward adolescents by their peers (e.g., cyberbullying), very little research has explored digital aggression directed toward oneself. “Digital self-harm” is the anonymous online posting, sending, or otherwise sharing of hurtful content about oneself. The current study examined the extent of digital self-harm among adolescents.

Methods

Survey data were obtained in 2016 from a nationally representative sample of 5,593 American middle and high school students (12–17 years old). Logistic regression analysis was used to identify correlates of participation in digital self-harm. Qualitative responses were also reviewed to better understand motivations for digital self-harm.

Results

About 6% of students have anonymously posted something online about themselves that was mean. Males were significantly more likely to report participation (7.1% compared to 5.3%). Several statistically significant correlates of involvement in digital self-harm were identified, including sexual orientation, experience with school bullying and cyberbullying, drug use, participation in various forms of adolescent deviance, and depressive symptoms.

Conclusions

Digital self-harm is a new problem that demands additional scholarly attention. A deeper inquiry as to the motivations behind this behavior, and how it correlates to offline self-harm and suicidal ideation, can help direct mental health professionals toward informed prevention approaches.

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One for my students: phones keep you from concentrating during lectures

Yesterday I said to one of my students that it was pointless to sit in my class if you are so busy with your phone. He was so busy it even distracted me. I should have mentioned this new study – a combination of a meta-review and new data -, but I only read if afterwards. But let’s be honest: we’ve known this for quite a while.

The study in short:

 

  • Media use (MU) and academic performance (AP) studies omit subject area comparison.
  • Sample populations tend to be biased toward social science programs.•
  • Data show differences in the type and frequency of MU across subject areas.
  • Differences between MU and AP correlations were found for different subject areas.
  • MU is a stronger predictor of AP for students in the soft sciences.

 

From the press release (I skipped the digital native part for obvious reasons):

The researchers say it shouldn’t be surprising that university lecturers are encouraged to develop blended learning initiatives and bring tech — videos, podcasts, Facebook pages, etc. — into the classroom more and more to offer students the enhanced experiences enabled by digital media.

They warn, however, that an important effect of these initiatives has been to establish media use during university lectures as the norm.

“Studies by ourselves and researchers across the world show that students constantly use their phones when they are in class.

“But here’s the kicker: if you think they are following the lecture slides or engaging in debates about the topic you are mistaken. In fact, this is hardly ever the case. When students use their phones during lectures they do it to communicate with friends, engage in social networks, watch YouTube videos or just browse around the web to follow their interests.”

The researchers say there are two primary reasons why this form of behaviour is problematic from a cognitive control and learning perspective.

“The first is that when we engage in multitasking our performance on the primary task suffers. Making sense of lecture content is very difficult when you switch attention to your phone every five minutes. A strong body of evidence supports this, showing that media use during lectures is associated with lower academic performance.”

“The second reason is that it harms students’ ability to concentrate on any particular thing for an extended period of time. They become accustomed to switching to alternative streams of stimuli at increasingly short intervals. The moment the lecture fails to engage or becomes difficult to follow, the phones come out.”

The researchers say awareness of this trend has prompted some lecturers, even at leading tech-oriented universities like MIT in the United States, to declare their lectures device-free in an attempt to cultivate engagement, attentiveness and, ultimately, critical thinking skills among their students.

“No one can deny that mobile computing devices make our lives easier and more fun in a myriad of ways. But, in the face of all the connectedness and entertainment they offer, we should be mindful of the costs.”

The researchers encourage educational policy makers and lecturers, in particular, to consider the implications of their decisions with a much deeper awareness of the dynamics between technology use and the cognitive functions which enable us to learn.

Abstract of the paper:

The current generation of university students display an increasing propensity for media multitasking behaviour with digital devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones. A growing body of empirical evidence has shown that this behaviour is associated with reduced academic performance. In this study it is proposed that the subject area within which an individual is situated may influence the relationship between media multitasking and academic performance. This proposition is evaluated, firstly, by means of a meta-review of prior studies in this area and, secondly, through a survey-based study of 1678 students at a large university in South Africa. Our findings suggest that little or no attention has been paid to variations between students from different subject areas in previous work and, based on our data, that subject area does influence the relationship between media use and academic performance. The study found that while a significant negative correlation exists between in-lecture media use and academic performance for students in the Arts and Social Sciences, the same pattern is not observable for students in the faculties of Engineering, Economic and Management Sciences, and Medical and Health Sciences.

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Udacity isn’t about education but about job training

Past week I had the pleasure to attend a talk by Eric Schmidt, top leader from Alphabet/Google in the Netherlands. One of the more interesting things he said was a seemingly contradiction: after several pleas for teaching how to code in school, he ended his talk by saying that soon AI would make coding obsolete.

There was also another talk at the event by Clarissa Shen from Udacity. Her talk gave me an important insight: the present courses delivered by the platform aren’t about education, it’s all about job training.

What is the difference? Biesta has described 3 goals of education: subjectification (personal development), qualification and socialisation. If you go to a school or university you’ll get elements that lead to qualification. Good, but most of the time even when discussing qualification in regular education., it will be more than learning only stuff that is related to a particular job.

What Shen described was only a narrow part of what can be regarded as qualification from the three tasks by Biesta, so don’t call Udacity and it’s nano-degrees education, call it what it is: job training.

Oh, btw, I enjoyed reading this related post at Inside Higher Ed.

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What does the evidence say about technology use? (Best Evidence in Brief)

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief (they have a blog now too) and this study I picked will interest a lot of the readers of this blog:

New educational technology programs are being released faster than researchers can evaluate them. The National Bureau of Economic Research has written a working paper, Education Technology: An Evidence-Based Review, which discusses the evidence to date on the use of technology in the classroom, with the goal of finding decision-relevant patterns.
Maya Escueta and colleagues compiled publicly available quantitative research that used either randomized controlled trials or regression discontinuity designs (where students qualify for inclusion in a program based on a cut-off score at pretest). All studies had to examine the effects of an ed-tech intervention on any education-related outcome. Therefore, the paper included not only the areas of technology access, computer-assisted learning, and online courses, but also the less-often-studied technology-based behavioral interventions.
Authors found that:
  • Access to technology may or may not improve academic achievement at the K-12 level, but does have a positive impact on the academic achievement of college students (ES=+0.14).
  • Computer-assisted learning, when equipped with personalization features, was an effective strategy, especially in math.
  • Behavioral intervention software, such as text-message reminders or e-messages instructing parents how to practice reading with their children, showed positive effects at all levels of education, plus were a cost-effective approach. Four main uses for behavioral intervention software emerged: encouraging parental involvement in early learning activities, communication between the school and parents, successfully transitioning into and through college, and creating mindset interventions. Research is recommended to determine the areas where behavioral intervention software is most impactful.
  • Online learning courses had the least amount of research to examine and showed the least promise of the four areas. However, when online courses were accompanied by in-person teaching, the effect sizes increased to scores comparable to fully in-person courses.

 

 

 

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Interesting presentation: The digital transformation of education (Dirk Van Damme, OECD)

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How do online college courses affect student success?

Well, I would argue it depends and research seems to tell this to. Check this graph taken from Clark and Mayers classic book “E-learning and the science of instruction” taken from Bernard et al., 2004:

The graph shows the effectiveness of particular courses of study and the extent to which these courses involved the use of online teaching methods and you can see that the online courses are on both the positive and the negative side of effect sizes.

But a new study by Bettinger et al. shows that it’s maybe a bit more complicated. How do including virtual courses in a curriculum affect students progress in a whole? Well, I think I have some bad news…

Our analyses provide evidence that students in online courses perform substantially worse than students in traditional in-person courses, and these findings are robust to a number of potential threats. We also find differentially larger negative effects of online course-taking for students with lower prior GPA. The results are in line with prior studies of online education in showing that in-person courses yield better mean outcomes than online courses (Figlio, Rush, and Yin 2013; Xu and Jaggars 2013; Alpert, Couch, and Harmon 2016; Streich 2014b; Joyce et al. 2015; Hart, Friedmann, and Hill forthcoming). Our results also suggest one reason why, as other studies have found, for-profit students may have poorer labor market outcomes (Turner 2012; Lang and Weinstein 2013; Cellini and Chaudhary 2014; Darolia et al. 2015; Deming et al. 2016).

The authors try to explain why this could be the case:

Online courses substantially change the nature of interactions between students, their peers, and their professors. First, in online courses, students can participate at any hour of the day from any place. That flexibility could allow students to better allocate time and effort, but could also be a challenge for students who have not learned to manage their own time. Chevalier, Dolton, and Lührmann (2016), studying incentives and student effort, find evidence consistent with this hypothesis. Second, online courses change the constraints and expectations on academic interactions. Professors and students do not interact face-to-face; they interact only by asynchronous written communication. Thus, students likely feel less oversight from their professors and less pressure to respond to professors’ questions. In the standard principal-agent problem, effort by the agent (student) falls as it becomes less observable to the principal (professor): see Jensen and Meckling (1976). Third, the role of the professor is quite different. Online classes standardize inputs, which traditionally vary between professors. For example, lectures are replaced with videos. Between-professor variation in student outcomes may shrink or may widen depending on how professors choose to use the time saved by not lecturing.

Or summarized: relation is key for learning?

Abstract of the study (H/T Jeroen Janssen):

Online college courses are a rapidly expanding feature of higher education, yet little research identifies their effects relative to traditional in-person classes. Using an instrumental variables approach, we find that taking a course online, instead of in-person, reduces student success and progress in college. Grades are lower both for the course taken online and in future courses. Students are less likely to remain enrolled at the university. These estimates are local average treatment effects for students with access to both online and in-person options; for other students, online classes may be the only option for accessing college-level courses.

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Presentation: Urban Myths about Learning and Technology (at #rED17)

This is the presentation I gave at the National ResearchED conference, September 9 2017. The presentation is in part based on our book Urban Myths about Learning and Education and in part based on the recent article I co-wrote with Paul Kirschner published in Teaching and Teacher Education (yes the one that was mentioned in Nature).

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2 examples of a bit of historic perspective on technology in education

It would have been great examples for a Funny on Sunday, but well, let’s share them on Monday.

The first example is a tweet from Tim:

And funny enough a few minutes later I discover this second example via Steven Pinker:

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