North Carolina School Engages Tech Generation With Digital Learning Tools

Logo-pbs-newshour John Tulenko of Learning Matters, which produces education stories for the NewsHour, reports on a North Carolina school district switching from textbooks to all-digital learning materials.

My favorite quote is this piece comes from Mark Edwards, Superientendent of Schools in Mooresville, North Carolina:

"For years we would tell students "We will prepare you for your future." But their experience in school didn't have much to do (with the future).

I would say it would be the same to say "We are going to prepare you for driving a car, so get on this horse." And the kids say "That doesn't make sense, i'm not going to be riding a horse."

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.



Speak Up National Findings 2010: How Students Are Leveraging Technology for Learning

image from Earlier this month 2011 Project Tomorrow released the reportThe New 3 E’s of Education: Enabled, Engaged and Empowered – How Today’s Students are Leveraging Emerging Technologies for Learning” at a Congressional Briefing held in Washington, D.C..

The Speak Up 2010 project surveyed almost 300,000 students (along with 43,000 parents, 35,000 teachers, 2000 librarians and 3500 administrators) from over 6500 private and public schools last fall about how they're using - and how they want to be using - technology for learning.

Key findings:

  • 67 percent of parents said they would purchase a mobile device for their child to use for schoolwork if the school allowed it, and 61 percent said they liked the idea of students using mobile devices to access online textbooks.
  • 53 percent of middle and high school students reported that the inability to use cell phones, smart phones or MP3 players was the largest obstacle when using technology in school.
  • Additionally, 71 percent of high school students and 62 percent of middle school students said that the number one way schools could make it easier to use technology would be to allow greater access to the digital content and resources that Internet firewalls and school filters blocked.
  • Parents are increasingly supportive of online textbooks. Two-thirds of parents view online textbooks as a good investment to enhance student achievement compared to 21 percent in 2008. However, E-textbooks are still a relatively novel concept in the classroom. Slightly over one-third of high school students report they are currently using an online textbook or other online curriculum as part of their regular schoolwork.
  • Nearly 30 percent of high school students have experienced some type of online learning.

Speak Up National Findings 2010

Togetherville Named One of the 10 Most Innovative Companies in Education

Togetherville.logo Fast Company just released its list of the most innovative companies in the world, and Togetherville ranked #5 on their education list! Other notable mentions on this list include LinkedIn and the Discovery Channel.

To learn more on how Togetherville, the social networking site for kids,families and teachers, is building a platform for these communities to share and express their thoughts on educational issues, click here.

Congrats to the Togetherville team!

Case Study: 5 Social Tools In Practice at Harvard

image from In this SlideShare presentation from SXSW 2011, Chris Traganos (@ctraganos) of the Harvard Web Working Group (@harvardwww) shares a case study of the many ways in which Harvard University uses various types of social media to connect, engage and inform students, faculty and alumni.

It's a very well done presentation and worth taking the time to learn what has worked for Harvard University and then looking at your own social strategy and finding ways to integrate some of the best practices contained in this presentation. Thanks for sharing Chris!

Chicago Students See Success Hitting the Gym, Then Hitting the Books


At Naperville Central, a public high school of nearly 3,000 students, educators believe exercise will not only get kids fit, but will improve learning and academic performance.

And they're putting that idea into practice for a group of students who struggle in reading and in math. At 7:45 a.m., these freshmen and sophomores start the day in the gym.

This excerpt tells the story of an academic transformation that began with a gym teacher.

Related: More Strokes Hitting Young, Middle-Aged

Blackawton Bees: Eight-Year-Olds Publish Bee Study in Respected UK Science Journal

image from Royal Society Publishing science journal Biology Letters is releasing a paper about the way bees use color and space to navigate between flowers. It was written by 25 co-authors, all of whom are between the ages of 8 and 10.

Really: The 25 kids, all from the Blackawton Primary School in Devon, England, designed the experiment from the ground up, and wrote every word in the paper.

The students who published the paper were participants in "i, scientist," a project set up to engage kids with science in a hands-on way. A very hands-on way.

I Scientist film from Storymakers TV on Vimeo.

With help from neuroscientist Beau Lotto (whose son is in the class), the 25-person team began by thinking about the way animals—in particular, bees—perceive the world. You can read more about the Blackawton Bees study and other projects by Lotto by clicking here. The Blackawton Bee paper is available here.

This is a briliant and hands on way to teach kids science. Instead of sitting in classroom and listening to a teacher, these kids are getting a hands on experience that makes science move from theory into actual practice and proves that anyone can do science.


University Faculty Twitter Usage Survey 2010

Twitter.logo. The 2010 Faculty Focus survey of nearly 1,400 higher education professionals found that more than a third (35.2 percent) of the 1,372 respondents who completed the survey in July-August 2010 use Twitter in some capacity.

That’s up from 30.7 percent in 2009.

This report represents the second annual survey on Twitter usage and trends among college faculty.

This year’s survey, like that conducted in 2009, sought answers to some of the fundamental questions regarding faculty members’ familiarity, perception, and experience with the micro-blogging technology, as well as whether they expect their Twitter use to increase or decrease in the future.

2010 Twitter Survey Report

Meanwhile, the percentage of educators who never used Twitter decreased from 56.4 percent in 2009 to 47.9 percent in 2010. The remaining 16.9 percentage consists of those who tried Twitter, but stopped using it —an increase from 12.9 percent in 2009.

Of those who currently use Twitter, the most common activities include “to share information with peers” and “as a real-time news source.” Instructional uses, such as “to communicate with students” and “as a learning tool in the classroom” are less popular, although both activities saw increases over the previous year.

Meanwhile, a number of non-users expressed concerns that Twitter creates poor writing skills and could be yet another classroom distraction. Many also noted that very few of their students use Twitter.

Finally, a new trend that emerged this year centered on the belief that many feel they already have too many places to post messages or check for student questions/comments. As one professor put it, “I have no interest in adding yet another communication tool to my overloaded life.”

In terms of future use, just over half (56.8 percent) of current Twitter users say they expect to increase their use during the coming academic year. Only 2.5 percent say their Twitter use will likely decrease, and 40.7 percent say it will stay about the same.

This 22-page report gives a breakdown of each survey question, including a sampling of the comments provided by the respondents. The comments allowed faculty to further explain how they are using Twitter, why they stopped, or why they have no interest in using it at all.

Infographic: Ken Robinson on Changing Education Paradigms

Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we're educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence.image from

 A visionary cultural leader, Sir Ken led the British government's 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education, a massive inquiry into the significance of creativity in the educational system and the economy, and was knighted in 2003 for his achievements.

His latest book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, a deep look at human creativity and education, was published in January 2009.


This animate was adapted from a talk given at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA's Benjamin Franklin award.

Gen Y, Social Media, and Learning in the Digital Age

Social.computingI'm happy to announce that my book chapter that I co-wrote with Dr. Mercedes Fisher is now officially published!

Chapter Title: "Social Media, Gen Y and Digital Learning Styles."

Author(s): Derek E. Baird ; Mercedes Fisher

Pages: 2023-2044 pp.

Book Title: Social Computing: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications

Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Subhasish Dasgupta (George Washington University, USA) Copyright: 2010


In this chapter we outline how educators are creating a “mash up” of traditional pedagogy with new media to create a 21st Century pedagogy designed to support the digital learning styles of Gen Y students.

The research included in this paper is intended as a directional means to help instructors and course designers identify social and new media resources and other emerging technologies that will enhance the delivery of instruction while meeting the needs of today’s digital learning styles.

The media-centric Millennial values its ability to use the web to create self-paced, customized, on-demand learning paths that include using multiple platforms for mobile, interactive, social, and self-publishing experiences.

These can include wiki, blogs, podcasts and other social platforms like Twitter, Emodo and Facebook. New media provides these hyper-connected students with a medium for understanding, social interaction, idea negotiation, as well as an intrinsic motivation for participation.

The active nature of today’s digitally connected student culture is one that more resourcefully fosters idea generation and experience-oriented innovation than traditional schooling models.

In addition, we describe our approach to utilizing current and emerging social media to support Gen Y learners, facilitate the formation of learning communities, foster student engagement, reflection, and enhance the overall learning experience for students in synchronous and asynchronous virtual learning environments (VLE).

Related: Derek E. Baird > Publications

Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century

Retro-tv According to a study from the Pew Internet & American Life project (Lenhardt & Madden, 2005), more than one-half of all teens have created media content, and roughly one-third of teens who use the Internet have shared content they produced.

In many cases, these teens are actively involved in what we are calling participatory cultures.

A participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices.

A participatory culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created). Henry Jenkins: Participatory Culture & Media Education

A growing body of scholarship suggests potential benefits of these forms of participatory culture, including opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, a changed attitude toward intellectual property, the diversification of cultural expression, the development of skills valued in the modern workplace, and a more empowered conception of citizenship.

Access to this participatory culture functions as a new form of the hidden curriculum, shaping which youth will succeed and which will be left behind as they enter school and the workplace.

Research: Empowering Parents Through Technology

RU.ready The Children's Partnership works to ensure that all children—especially those at risk of being left behind—have the resources and the opportunities they need to grow up healthy and lead productive lives. They have released a report titled "Empowering Parents Through Technology."

Computers and broadband are becoming essential tools to help parents engage in their children's education which can improve their academic achievement and lives. This report addresses ways to ensure more parents and caregivers have access to technology tools and the skills to use them effectively.

It discusses the connections between schools and families, how technology reinforces existing connections and constructs new ones and how this benefits children, especially those who are underserved by the existing education system. Finally, this report outlines an Empowering Parents Through Technology Action Plan that serves as a roadmap for achieving these goals.

Empowering Parents Through Technology

Related: Social Networking + Digital Media Parenting Resources

Get Involved:, 'Waiting for Superman', Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah

Donors.choose.waiting.for.superman is an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help public school students in need. Public school teachers from every corner of the US post classroom project requests on DonorsChoose.

Things like pencils for a poetry writing class, violins for a school recital or microscope slides for a biology class. Then anyone can browse the classroom requests and give any amount to the ones that inspire them.

Donors Choose is one of my favorite charities. I like to support projects geared towards kids who live in rural or inner city school districts who are looking for donations to buy books.

But the beauty of Donors Choose is that you can support any public school request you want! So if you want to support sports, technology or other projects, you can! At folks can give as little as $1 and get the same level of choice.

Here's another way you can help DonorsChoose and learn more about the American education system. Waiting for Superman is a new documentary by Davis Guggenheim that explores the current state of education in America and how it's affecting our children.


The film was recently featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show and has received both rave reviews and condemnation. The truth, as it most often does, lies somewhere between the two extremes.

But here's the deal. Nothing will get better unless we start the conversation. And that is exactly what Waiting for Superman does so effectively. It gets the conversation going and will hopefully motivate  people to jump in and help be part of the solution.

DonorsChoose is part of the solution. It's a ground level, hands on way to effect change, one classroom at a time. Here's an easy way to get involved: For each "Waiting for Superman" movie ticket purchased on Fandango or book purchased, you'll receieve a $15 gift code that you can use on DonorsChoose to help fund a classroom request.

This interactive map, powered by Bing, displays classroom projects actively seeking support that were posted by public schools in your area. The map automagically detects your location and shows local schools in your area who are seeking support through!

So stop Waiting for Superman to find a solution! Be a superhero by getting involved in the PTA, your kids' classroom and by supporting on the ground organizations like DonorsChoose!

Update: Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, announced on the Oprah Winfrey Show that he has created a foundation—Startup: Education—with an initial gift of $100 million to improve educational opportunities for young people in America.

The foundation’s first project will support Governor Christie and Mayor Booker’s bipartisan initiative, PENewark (Partnership for Education in Newark), to ensure every school-aged child in Newark has access to a high-quality education that prepares them for a successful future and a better quality of life.

In Google We Trust: Young Adults’ Evaluation of Web Content [Research]

Googlelogo150ReadWriteWeb has an interesting piece about a research study, Trust Online: Young Adults’ Evaluation of Web Content, out of Northwestern University which found that the much lauded "digital natives" aren't so savvy and that they may trust Google a little too much.

Sure those digital kids can surf the web and text, but when it comes to web credibility and media literacy, they are lacking the skills necessary to properly vet digital resources.

As readers of this Barking Robot are aware, this is a topic that I've been talking about for some time.

Here's the RWW with a breakdown of the study:

"In Google we trust." That may very well be the motto of today's young online users, a demographic group often dubbed the "digital natives" due their apparent tech-savvy.

Having been born into a world where personal computers were not a revolution, but merely existed alongside air conditioning, microwaves and other appliances, there has been (a perhaps misguided) perception that the young are more digitally in-tune with the ways of the Web than others.

That may not be true, as it turns out. A new study coming out of Northwestern University, discovered that college students have a decided lack of Web savvy, especially when it comes to search engines and the ability to determine the credibility of search results.

Apparently, the students favor search engine rankings above all other factors. The only thing that matters is that something is the top search result, not that it's legit.

During the study, one of the researchers asked a study participant, "What is this website?" Oh, I don't know. The first thing that came up."

That exchange sums up the overall results from this study: many students trusted in rankings above all else. In fact, a quarter of the students, when assign information-seeking tasks, said they chose a website because - and only because - it was the first search result.

Trust Online: Young Adults' Evaluation of Web Content

Infographic: Professors’ Use of Technology in Teaching

image from
The Faculty Survey of Student Engagement surveyed approximately 4,600 faculty members at 50 U.S. colleges and universities in the spring of 2009 to see how they are using new media and social technology in their classroom.

Based on these findings, it doesn't seem like too many professors' are integrating technology into their classroom. What do you think? Do these results surprise you?

Thanks to Dale for the heads up!

Related: In Google We Trust: Young Adults' Evaluation of Web Content

Trend Watch: Those Digital Natives? Not So Savvy.


"THEY are variously known as the Net Generation, Millennials, Generation Y or Digital Natives. But whatever you call this group of young people—roughly, those born between 1980 and 2000—there is a widespread consensus among educators, marketers and policymakers that digital technologies have given rise to a new generation of students, consumers, and citizens who see the world in a different way. Growing up with the internet, it is argued, has transformed their approach to education, work and politics.

But does it really make sense to generalise about a whole generation in this way? Not everyone thinks it does. “This is essentially a wrong-headed argument that assumes that our kids have some special path to the witchcraft of ‘digital awareness’ and that they understand something that we, teachers, don’t—and we have to catch up with them,” says Siva Vaidhyanathan, who teaches media studies at University of Virginia.

Michael Wesch, who pioneered the use of new media in his cultural anthropology classes at Kansas State University, is also skeptical, saying that many of his incoming students have only a superficial familiarity with the digital tools that they use regularly, especially when it comes to the tools’ social and political potential.

Only a small fraction of students may count as true digital natives, in other words. The rest are no better or worse at using technology than the rest of the population." |  Read More >>

Related: The Myth of the Digital Native