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Education Technology

What's Inside the FCC's E-rate Order?

August 4, 2014

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its E-rate Order in late July, the biggest overhaul of the program since it was created 17 years ago.

Big Data Comes to College | NPR

  • By
  • Anya Kamenetz,
  • New America Foundation
July 4, 2014 |
When students at Purdue University are reading their homework assignments, sometimes the assignments are reading them too.

So You Think You Want to Run a Hackathon? Think Again. (A Case Study on #CivicTech Events)

June 23, 2014

This article is an excerpt from a longer piece originally posted on Medium. Click here for the full story.


“Hackathons.” That’s one of the most popular answers to a question you haven’t asked yet: How do you organize your local tech community to do X/attend Y/engage with Z?

Roundtable on the Science of Digital Media and Early Learning

October 25, 2013
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With nearly 100,000 apps in the education category of the iTunes app store, and television still a huge part of children’s daily lives, the questions about how technology affects learning are more pertinent than ever.  At the New America Foundation last week, the Early Education Initiative sought answers to these questions at a first-of-its-kind roundtable discussion with dozens of media and early childhood researchers from across the country. 

The discussion, Digital Media and Early Learning: What We Know and What We Need to Learn, was organized in partnership with the Alliance for Early Learning in a Digital Age, a consortium of institutions that included the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, the Ounce of Prevention Fund, PBS, Sesame Workshop, and The TEC Center at Erikson Institute. The Grable Foundation of Pittsburgh funded the event.

Putting Technology Second

October 21, 2013

With all the creative projects that can derive from audio, video and interactive media, it can be easy to forget that hardware and software are just tools. Fortunately, the producers of a project called HearMe at Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE lab,  learned that lesson quickly. They realized that to take advantage of media tools, people had to come first.

E-rate Modernization: Promoting Connectivity for 21st Century Learning Environments

September 23, 2013
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Last week, the New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program and Open Technology Institute jointly submitted recommendations to the Federal Communications Commission outlining ways to modernize the Commission’s E-rate program. Our recommendations underscore a more modern understanding of how connectivity is leveraged by schools, libraries and communities throughout the country to promote 21st century learning.
As OTI’s Danielle Kehl and Sarah Morris discuss in the Dispatches from the Digital Frontier blog:
Schools and libraries face enormous challenges in ensuring that they are adequately connected to broadband services that enable 21st century learning. Although the E-rate program, which helps schools and libraries obtain affordable telecommunications services, has had tremendous success in helping schools get connected, upgrading capacity has become increasingly difficult in recent years.
While capacity has been lagging in schools and libraries throughout the country, we increasingly need more of it to meet 21st century demands.
Schools and libraries are physical and symbolic anchors in their communities and, especially for areas with the highest need, are a central point for disseminating many needed resources. Public libraries, for example, offer some 3.75 million children's and educational programs to the public, according to the Institute for Museum and Library Services. We believe that schools and libraries should have the flexibility to maintain open Wi-Fi hotspots—not only during non-school and non-business hours, but even when school is in session and libraries are open (as long as it is not disruptive to students or library patrons).
Further, we provide several specific recommendations addressing the need for greater program parity. Some of the proposed funding changes put forward by other stakeholders—such as allocating E-rate dollars to schools on a per-pupil basis—could actually lead to greater inequity due to the highly variable cost of broadband service across the country. In thinking through alternative funding structures for the program, making sure the funding structure takes into account these variations is crucial.
We also caution against tying E-rate funding to specific educational outcomes. Broadband access is a necessary component for building 21st century learning environments, and we should understand how connectivity expands the tools and resources that schools and libraries can provide. It is highly problematic, however, to use student outcomes to determine the level of infrastructure investment a school or library should receive.
Additionally, we urge the Commission to look for ways to promote greater equity in E-rate’s treatment of support for our country’s youngest learners. Currently, the Commission recognizes state definitions of elementary and secondary schooling for funding decisions—unfortunately, in some cases this has led to unequal access to support. This is most clear in the case of pre-kindergarten; due to state definitions of elementary school, a pre-K classroom in Florida, for example, is eligible for E-rate funds while a pre-K classroom in Georgia is not.
To read more on our E-rate recommendations check out more coverage on OTI’s Dispatches from the Digital Frontier blog or view our full recommendations, available through the FCC’s electronic comment filing system.

Math Apps, Preschoolers and Framing New Research Questions

September 4, 2013
Children and teacher around iPad

For the past two years, I’ve been following the creation and development of Next Generation Preschool Math, a research and development project funded by the National Science Foundation. The project is designed to shed light on how -- and if -- 4-year-olds can learn early math skills from apps designed to be used in classroom settings with teacher input and guidance. 

Syllabus: Week of July 22, 2013

July 26, 2013
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Welcome to the Syllabus, a guide that provides insight into what’s happening in higher education.
Goldie Blumenstyk, Chronicle of Higher Education
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Education released data indicating that more than 150 degree-granting colleges failed the department’s “financial responsibility” test for the 2011 fiscal year. Of those failing colleges, 54 nonprofits and 25 for-profits had scored so low that they are required to post letters of credit in order to continue their participation in federal student aid. The “financial responsibility” test is one of the few available indicators demonstrating the financial health of a college. The scores are calculated by analyzing such factors as a college’s debt, assets, operating surpluses, or deficits.
In recent years, the “financial responsibility” test has come under fire by groups like the National Association of Independent College and Universities (NAICU), claiming that the measure is calculated in an inconsistent and erroneous manner. Frustrated by the Education Department’s refusal to reform the test, NAICU is asking congress to reform the calculation as part of the next reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  
Ry Rivard, Inside Higher Ed
After a six-month pilot, San Jose State University has decided to “pause” its work with the online provider Udacity. The university’s provost, Ellen Junn said she will do extensive research on the trial and hopes to begin working with Udacity again in the spring of 2014. Preliminary findings suggested students that participated in Udacity online courses did not fare as well as those students who attended traditional classes. This could be because many of the students enrolled in these courses were at-risk, high school students and students who have failed remedial math courses. Also, the online courses were complied at the last minute, as students were taking them.
San Jose State is also working with edX, which is a nonprofit MOCC provider founded by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The edX partnership does not replace any programs, but supplements the classroom experience by requiring students to review the material prior to arriving to class. This allows faculty to spend more time in class working with students and less time reviewing materials. Preliminary findings indicate that students participating in the program are exceeding the performance of those students not participating.
Lauren Ingeno, Inside Higher Ed
Many in the nursing community are growing concerned with the approaching retirement of nursing educations from the baby boom era. From top-ranking nursing schools like Johns Hopkins, to community colleges like Cuyahoga, qualified faculty – especially nurse preceptors and those with mater’s and doctoral degrees - are hard to find. This concern will only increase once the Affordable Health Care Act is fully in place, which will increase the amount of insured Americans by 30 million. According to a statement by Cuyahoga Community College, “The demand for nurse educators in the Northeast Ohio region will increase by 11 percent by 2010 and 2015.”
To help deal with the faculty shortage, programs at four-year institutions and community colleges have developed creative solutions to hire and retain new faculty. In some states, public institutions and state governments have gathered to address how the money should be allocated to improve the development of educators in the nursing profession. Other states have provided incentives to their nursing faculty to earn their doctoral degrees while learning how to teach nursing effectively. At the University of West Georgia School of Nursing, Dean Kathryn Grams stated, “We’re willing to target out young students to get them into faculty positions before they’re 35 or 40.”

First Step Toward E-Rate Reform, Not Necessarily ConnectED

July 22, 2013

On Friday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took a first step toward modernizing the E-Rate program, voting that it would begin the reform process. While this is an important first step toward modernization, it remains to be seen what direction the FCC will take as it moves forward with reform.

Last week on Ed Money Watch, I posted a brief review of the latest E-Rate reform proposal put forth by FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, which varies significantly from the ConnectED initiative introduced by President Obama. As he emphasized during his remarks, “Faced with the choice between a one-dimensional national benchmark or local autonomy that benefits local students, I favor the latter.”

Today, on New America’s In the Tank blog, Danielle Kehl from New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) and I further analyze Commissioner Pai’s proposal, with an in-depth exploration of his proposal to move to per-pupil funding:

In the education world, per-pupil funding is a common way to administer dollars for variable costs in schools – costs that are associated directly with each student. For desks and textbooks, this is a fairly easy calculation: if you have 1,000 students, you’ll need 1,000 books and 1,000 desks. But there are many potential pitfalls in using per-pupil funding for step costs, which are costs that increase or decrease once a certain threshold has been reached. Indeed, as Chicago Public Schools move this year to per-student funding, there is some concern that the new budget structure will exacerbate school inequality by further reducing budgets of schools with shrinking enrollment.

We also expand further on the issues surrounding service:

Commissioner Pai limited his discussion of next-generation technologies to the problems with differentiating between Priority 1 (which fund Internet and telecommunications services) and Priority 2 (which give money for internal connections and maintenance) funding requests since E-Rate received applications asking for twice as much money as was actually available last year. His concerns about whether schools should be spending their dollars on telephone services instead of classroom connections are valid. But nearly 80 percent of E-Rate schools report that they don’t have the capacity to meet current demand, and many schools still rely on speeds that are similar to the average home user’s. He barely mentioned fiber optic infrastructure, which is the only technology that’s truly future proof and capable of delivering speeds that meet not only today’s needs but also tomorrow’s.

Moving forward with the process, we hope that the various stakeholders can recognize the commonalities in these proposals and work together to modernize the E-Rate program.

For the full analysis, check out the complete post on In the Tank.

An Alternative to E-Rate 2.0: Another FCC Commissioner’s Vision for Restructuring the Schools and Libraries Program

July 22, 2013

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is gearing up for a monumental task: revamping the E-Rate program, which subsidizes broadband connectivity to connect schools and libraries across the US. As the rulemaking process gets underway, various stakeholders (including two FCC Commissioners) have laid out their own proposals, which differ widely in two key areas: funding and establishing national targets for connectivity.

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