Recently, I testified on behalf of NJASA about online and blended learning to the Joint Committee on the Public Schools which includes members of the NJ Senate and General Assembly. The committee’s purpose is to provide an ongoing study of the system of free public schools; it's financing, administration and operations, as well as to make recommendations for legislative action. My testimony before the committee focused on the opportunities that technology presents for enhancing teaching and learning. I told the legislators about a September summit which focused on online and blended learning. The summit was co-sponsored by NJASA, Intel and K12, Inc. The program featured panel presentations and discussions focusing on:
· National and international perspectives for online learning;
· Challenges faced and remaining in the areas of online curriculum, assessment model, professional development/personnel, funding, policy issues, technology infrastructure and sustainability;
· Free tools and programs for online and blended learning available from Intel and Microsoft; and
· Creating educator capacity for online and blended learning.
I spoke proudly about NJASA being a leader for nearly two decades in bringing information, resources and digital learning and administrative best practices to New Jersey educators through TECHSPO, a statewide educational technology training and exhibition conference. This year, we expect more than 1,000 participants to once again gather for the 18th TECHSPO in Atlantic City on January 31st and February 1st.
I have been fortunate to have attended TECHSPO since its earliest years and modest beginnings in Long Branch. I have taken away valuable information gleaned from keynote speakers, school district presenters and providers of technology services and products every year. Now, in the age of digital learners populating our schools, it is more important than ever to keep abreast of fast developing technologies and their applications for instruction and school operation. Who could have imagined even a decade ago that the brains of today’s students operate differently than their older generations in performing the same task? Or imagined the impact of social media and smart devices?
Attending TECHSPO presentations during the past few years has helped me to understand that today’s learners have been impacted dramatically by the digital world they are growing up in. Marc Prensky, a TECHSPO presenter, has estimated that our students today will have played more than 10,000 hours of video games, sent and received 250,000 emails and texts, spent 10,000 hours on phones, watched more than 20,000 hours of TV, and seen more than 500,000 commercials by age 21. Prensky points out, at the same time, they will have spent less than 9,000 hours attending school and spent less than 4,000 hours reading, with much of that time spent either unengaged or under-engaged.
Ian Jukes, a technology futurist and frequent TECHSPO presenter outlines the learning preferences of today’s digital learners, noting that so much of instruction does not capitalize on what we know about these preferences. He challenged us by asking: “If we continue to do what we know doesn’t work, then who really has the learning problem? Is it the students or is it us?”
You should attend TECHSPO on January 31 and February 1, 2013. I can assure you that you will leave with valuable knowledge that you can use in your school district and challenged by the opportunities of the future. Be sure to join us and hear keynote speakers Dr. Matthew Peterson, Co-Founder, Chief Technical Officer and Senior Scientist at the MIND Research Institute; and David Pogue, the weekly personal technology columnist for the New York Times, columnist for Scientific American, Emmy Award winning correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning and the current host of NOVA Science Now. Here is a link to the program and registration: TECHSPO.
In January we shall also survey all school superintendents in the state about current online and blended learning practices and programs in New Jersey’s schools as well as what opportunities in this area that superintendents would like to see be made available. This will be an important step as we work with members to provide a new educational paradigm for New Jersey schools that will enable schools to expand learning opportunities for their students through the use of online resources, online courses, and online instruction, and empowering educators to tap into the power of digital content to engage students. Our long term goals in this endeavor are focused on the following:
1. Position NJASA as the statewide hub of innovation and thought leadership on online education to
its member schools.
2. Provide access to high quality online learning resources and services, courses, and instruction that have been vetted for accountability and alignment with New Jersey and national curriculum standards.
3. Elevate the interest in utilizing digital resources and online learning among member schools.
4. Train educators in the use of online tools and resources.
5. Accelerate the utilization of virtual education in NJ schools to meet the academic needs of students.
6. Attract, engage and retain a global network of district and school leaders to collaborate towards long-term use of online learning to supplement traditional learning options.
NJASA will work to develop resources that supplement a student’s program of study at their local school. For example, a student may:
· wish to take an AP® course which their local school does not offer.
· wish to complete the remaining requirements for graduation this semester yet the course on campus is already full or not offered this semester.
· be home bound or hospital bound due to an illness and wish to remain on schedule and graduate on time.
· wish to enroll in an online course for credit recovery when the student has already failed the course and needs to regain the credit.
· wish to enroll in an online course because of scheduling conflicts at the local school.
· wish to enroll in an online course due to personal preference and interest.
· wish to take advantage of online tutoring sessions.
We are operating on the premise that students should have choices regarding when they study and work in courses; therefore, we plan to offer students rolling enrollment where possible, which means that the start time is flexible. In many courses, students may begin the course any week of the year, and may move at their own pace through the online course. All courses offered by NJASA will be taught by highly qualified and NJ-certified instructors.
In order to provide students with an education for their future and not our past, we must think like a football quarterback, a metaphor taken from Mr. Jukes. The quarterback must throw the ball to where the receiver will be, not where he is when the play begins. Similarly, we must aim our school transformation efforts to the future and use what we know about today’s digital learners to plan for their learning future. Clearly, online and blended learning will be an integral part of that future.
We must, and we shall
,overcome the hurdle of traditional and institutional thinking of the past, as well as the obstacle of contract language with educators’ working conditions that look to the models of the past and not to the future of our students.
NJASA looks forward to working with you to achieve these ends.Richard G. Bozza, Ed.D.NJASA Executive Director