The International Literacy Association (ILA) recently issued its “What’s Hot and What’s Important” report. The report highlights what hot topics the country is talking about—and just as telling, what is important to the educational community. Here are some reflections on the report.
The number one hot topic in the country is assessment/standards. Given the polarization of politics, this is not surprising. The world of assessment is in flux now, with the educational community waiting to see what will happen. Will there be more pushback from the Common Core State Standards? And if so, how will it affect assessments aligned directly to the Common Core? Will states receive more direct funding and create their own assessments? Will assessment companies have to revise their current tests? And, most important, when will the world of assessment settle down?
We think the pushback from the Common Core will continue. This may be an opportunity for assessment developers if some states write their own standards, because they will want revised assessments aligned to those standards. One thing is clear: assessment and standards will remain in flux for most of the year, as the political battles continue.
What are your colleagues exploring? From instructional design to visual literacy to interactive lessons, here’s one way to find out: the top ten Victory blogs from 2016.
This year we had 6,187 unique visitors to our blog, and more than 2,100 of you kept coming back. Our top blog had 432 unique page-views, and it kept people interested for an average of 5 minutes. Yet we know we can do even better this year! Help us deliver educational insights that are important to you: request a Victory blog topic for 2017.
Top 10 Victory Blog Posts in 2016
1. Instructional Design 101
In educational publishing, design often refers to graphic design—envisioning and creating the visual look and feel of a book or product. However, graphic design is just one small part of another field of design essential to creating educational materials—instructional design.
2. Design: The Secret Behind Effective Digital Learning Experiences—Part 2
Imagine being able to see evidence of students’ analysis, the kinds of suppositions they make, and when and how they change their minds even before they write about it. Picture literally watching how their prior investigations influence their subsequent decisions. What if we could recognize not only students’ conclusions, but how their close reading of a text (or struggles with it) shapes their entire decision-making process?
3. U.S. Education Market Snapshot: English Language Learners (ELLs)
Overall, the number of ELL students in U.S. public schools is increasing steadily. According to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), ELLs are the fastest growing segment of the student population. Growth in grades 7–12 is the highest and now comprises 10.5% of the nation’s K–12 enrollment. The number of ELL students in elementary grades is also increasing.
Mark Twain said, “What gets us in trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know that just ain’t so.” Today’s students are bombarded with information and images and there is a need for lessons that foster critical thinking and civic responsibility. The time for strong, innovative social studies lessons has arrived. The National Council for the Social Studies conference provided a showcase of lesson, organizations, and companies that are working to meet those classroom demands. Here are some insights we gained from the NCSS 2016 convention:
- Learning from the past is critical in thinking about the future. Primary sources are perfect tools for seeing how events unfolded, the thinking and emotions behind the events, and the impact those events have on the world today. Organizations such as The Library of Congress, The Civil War Trust, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and the Pennsylvania Historical Society are treasure troves of primary sources with lessons and programs that allow students to see the links between the past and the present. Companies such as Pearson highlight primary sources in their social studies programs. Gibbs Smith Education offers fine state history products. As we discussed in a recent post, it’s worth checking out your state or local historical society for primary sources that will enhance and enrich history lessons.
- Often events are driven by economic decisions that continue to affect our daily lives. Students should learn to review and think about how the government spends money and how citizens benefit. Organizations such as the Council for Economic Education have many lessons and programs for students to explore these important issues.
- Geography is about much more than learning map skills. Geography tells us about people, their environment, their movements, and how geography affects our daily lives. As individuals in a global world, geography knowledge is critical. The National Council for Geographic Education and Core Knowledge support geography teaching and learning at all levels where students learn not only about physical geography, but also human geography.
- Social responsibility is critical in today’s ever-changing world. Students need to understand both the backstories of current events and must comprehend the why as well as the who and what of current events. Access to current events through videos, social media, print, and magazines is offered through Scholastic Magazines, Time Education, CNN Classroom, and Studies Weekly. These companies have products that allow students to focus on specific current events, discussing, thinking about, and understanding why things happen and what are the consequences.
Victory’s spinoff metacog was just featured in a blog post by Databricks, a company founded by the team that created Apache Spark, a powerful open-source data processing engine. See the Databricks blog post below.
metacog has been hard at work releasing new capabilities of its learning analytics platform, while at the same time enhancing existing capabilities. If you offer subscription-based products, you know that your customers expect continuous improvement. With metacog, we partner with you to deliver new capabilities in deep learning analytics that you can easily integrate into your products to generate new data-driven business models and revenue streams.
Why data analytics for adaptive and competency-based learning is so challenging
You may have seen many companies offering data analytics applied to learning products. If you look closely, most of the time what is offered is “administrative-level” data and simple scoring data:
- Time-on-task data – How long did learners use the interactive?
- “Attendance” data – Did learners participate?
- SCORM-compliant scores reported to a learning management system (LMS) – How well are learners doing?
- Simple score reports – How many right, how many wrong?
It turns out that in order to improve anything, you have to be able to measure it, but so far in education we have been measuring the wrong thing – the final answer.
This explains why scoring is the key issue. In the past, most open-ended assessments had to be human-scored. And this greatly reduces the frequency with which teachers and professors assign open-ended assessments. Yet it is open-ended tasks that best assess the ability of a candidate to perform well in today’s job market.
Why metacog is different
Victory’s spinoff metacog just released its advanced scoring analytics API at ISTE 2015 in Philadelphia. See the press release here, and feel free to share it with your colleagues.
Why Assessment Has Changed
Assessments have been evolving rapidly, mostly due to these factors:
- The new standards (Common Core and Next Generation Science) focus on practices that require higher-order thinking and decision-making skills.
- Jobs are changing, and employers need evidence that prospective employees have the necessary twenty-first-century skills.
- Technology makes it possible.
The assessment landscape is of course more complex than this; stay tuned for more detail in future blog posts.
One writer recently complained to us about NGSS:
They wrote the NGSS as if they had one goal in mind—don’t allow multiple choice questions. And now I have an assignment to write 100 MC questions for NGSS!
Writing good assessments is an art, but even the best assessments won’t be used unless they can be readily scored.
That’s why there are still so many multiple choice questions in high stakes assessments—because it is so expensive to grade the more open-ended assessments by hand.
While technology has made great strides in interactive digital assessment, the most robust assessments still have to be hand-scored.
The Answer—How metacog Makes Automated Scoring Possible
Victory is partnering with EdGate to develop the rapid prototype for high school math for the K–12 OER Collaborative. See the EdGate press release here.
More Than Correlation Needed for OER Deployment
When developing new materials in an OER environment, effective tools are needed for both developers and end users to maximize the benefit of correlated OER instructional materials:
- Students benefit from a wider variety of OER options designed for different learning styles.
- Teachers benefit from flexible lesson plans that are easily adapted as new OER resources become available.
- Districts benefit from access to multiple learning pathways that support areas of need.
EdGate’s Curriculum Matrix® will support these benefits for the OER rapid prototype and beyond. Read the press release below for more details.
Michael Comer is the Editorial Director of STEM at Victory and is the author of STEM Lesson Essentials.
Victory is proud to have been chosen to develop a rapid prototype for the K–12 OER Collaborative (see the press release below). We are developing high school mathematics.
Open Educational Resources (OER), Standards, and What’s Next in Education
As Jennifer Wolfe of The Learning Accelerator states, Victory and the other rapid prototype developers have significant track records in developing rigorous, standards-based educational resources.