The DeHavilland Blog

Friday, October 28, 2005

It was only a matter of time...

This is an interesting twist. Since India is turning out more people proficient in math and science, and who speak English, why not hire them to tutor our kids? Link to CNN story here.

We're not so different...

Just came across something interesting - apparently, at the same time that business and government leaders were meeting in Washington at the Business Education Network Summit, a group of education professionals - superintendents, mayors, governors, CIOs, curriculum directors and the like - were in Cape Cod to discuss education reform as well. This meeting, hosted by CCSSO, ECS, and the CELT Corporation was called the National Education Summit on "Leadership, Learning, and Technology for the 21st Century." An article in District Administration can be found here; a link to the conference home, where (hopefully) papers, press releases and the like will soon be posted, can be found here.

What strikes me is how similar the themes of these two conferences were (based on the DA article and my experience at BEN). Budgets, policies, and control issues are all hindering progress; communities need to get involved and help steer and support education; we need to take advantage of technology (distance learning, school information systems, ubiquitous computing, etc.); and so on. Both groups of course issued the same warnings about global education; they even based part of their concerns on the same book (The World Is Flat, by Thomas Friedman).

Once again, communication seems to me to be the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity. First, this group (as with BEN) repeatedly called for community engagement, which is 80% a communications issue (the other 20%, btw, is a willingness to have a conversation, and not dictate to the community what you're doing and what you need from them. Ask them what they want from public education and try to give it to them.) Second, why were these events held at the same time? I'm not saying it should have been a single event - perspectives and starting points are probably too different to have a productive session right off the bat - but there was tremendous opportunity for cross-pollination, with a delegation from each community joining the other to take part in the conversation. An opportunity lost.

In the big picture, of course, it is certainly encouraging that everyone is saying the same thing - it does seem like everyone agrees in principle to the need for change, and even on some of the major issues that need to be addressed. Implementation is the tough part - establishing common definitions of success, for one, and getting everyone to agree on the path(s) to get there. There are ways to do it - let's hope we can make it happen with all parties at the table.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Finally, some humor in education

Leave it to The Onion to bring some humor to the glum state of science education in America.
They've mocked up a Parade-style newsmagazine cover with a photo of a mother in a protective pose with her child (link here); while you really should visit the actual page to get the full effect, I can't help but relay the teaser copy here:

When a chance peek over 11-year-old Taylor's shoulder revealed a biology worksheet, she realized a teacher she'd trusted had been secretly teaching her only son about the physical world and its mechanics for almost a year.



Essay on math and science education

Great essay in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today from a college senior dismayed over the lack of interest kids and their families have in science and math education - read it here. The author is the daughter of immigrants from India, and the last line of her essay hits hard: My parents didn't come to America to see our generation lose jobs to India.

Consumer empowerment - in schools?

I've been thinking about something that came up at the recent Business Education Network Summit, specifically the idea that business could serve education by sharing its expertise in certain areas such as change management and the ability to scale new initiatives. The more I think about it, the more I see the applicability of business principles to education in any number of areas - not just lessons from management, but also from distribution/logistics, HR, finance, planning/forecasting, and even marketing.

Marketing comes to mind as I juxtapose some recent education surveys with the idea of customer empowerment, a marketing/customer relations movement that's gaining steam as a result of (or at least at the same time as) the growth of the Internet and the new relationships it allows between individuals and groups. The basic idea - as outlined in the Consumer Empowerment blog (link
here) - is that consumers can start to participate in corporate functions in the areas of marketing and new product development, which results in a product a) they want and b) in which they feel some sense of ownership.

I'm looking over this information and recalling some recent surveys of students which clearly indicate that they're unhappy with the education we're giving them - and, more importantly, they have some ideas on how to improve the situation. Two major surveys came out over the summer - one from the Horatio Alger Association and one from the National Governors Association - that make this point clear.

From "State of Our Nation's Youth Report" (link
here) from the Horatio Alger Association:
  • 31% of high school students believe that their schools have high expectations of them; 57% see expectations as moderate, while 12% see them as low.
  • 88% state that if their high schools raised academic standards and raised expectations for how much course work and homework were required to earn a diploma, they would apply themselves more.
  • 95% state that providing more real-world learning opportunities would improve their schools.
  • 92% state that having teachers or counselors advise them early in their high school careers on courses to take to prepare for colleges or careers would improve their education.
  • 91% believe that providing opportunities to take more challenging courses (AP, IB, college level course) would be an improvement.
  • 86% would like access to more after-school tutoring or learning opportunities on Saturday and/or summer school.
  • 81% say their schools would be improved if they required students to pass an exam in math and English in order to graduate from high school.
  • 75% believe schools should require four years' math and courses in biology, chemistry, and physics to graduate.
From the survey (link
here) by the National Governors Association (answers, it should be noted, come only from high school students who plan to graduate):
  • Only 64% of students believe that high school is giving them the skills they need to succeed, and only 63% find it challenging academically.
  • Only 46% believe high school is preparing them for a skill or trade.
  • 50% say that senior year is either a waste of time (6%) or could be much more meaningful (44%).
  • 65% strongly or somewhat agree that they would work harder if high school offered more interesting or demanding courses.
Teens identified a number of ideas that would make senior year more meaningful for them. A sampling includes "taking courses related to the kind of job I want," "receiving detailed information on colleges," "taking courses that result in college credit," "being allowed to pick and choose the courses I want," and "combining work and high school with internship."

It makes all kinds of sense to bring students into the education reform discussion, just as it makes all kinds of sense to ask consumers what they want in the products they're offered. The sense of ownership that this would allow - not to mention the improvements it would drive - could be a tremendous contribution as we seek to revitalize our education system.

Why don't we use research?

There's an insightful editorial in this month's Teacher Magazine (link here) by Ronald Wolk, who founded Education Week - Teacher Magazine's sister publication - 25 years ago. I hope I'm not out of line in also describing it as a bit poignant, given the frustration and sadness that comes through in Mr. Wolk's words.

Wolk founded Education Week to solve a huge problem in education: the lack of information-sharing in the education community, particularly the sharing of research findings. If people had access to this kind of information, it stands to reason, they would have a powerful tool in improving they way they teach, and education would be better as a result. Unfortunately, he argues, the value of research has never materialized in the education community for several reasons. It's a pretty damning list - I would refer you to the original article since I couldn't do it justice without a massive copy/paste job, which hardly seems right :-)

He ends with the following:

Plenty of good, impressive research findings are available to those who make the
decisions about public education. Indeed, if we wisely apply the knowledge we
already have, we could develop the education system that our kids need and
deserve. Unfortunately, we don’t.

One of my dream projects has always been to develop a clearinghouse of research, which has been reviewed, translated into plain English, and appended with practical instructions for implementation. Mr. Wolk's commentary, however, not only makes me question whether such a clearinghouse would be used, but at a larger level, what hope our education system has if it cannot take advantage of research and best practices.

Flaws aside, NCLB has shifted the conversation to accountability, and it would stand to reason that once someone is accountable they'll look for proven ways to improve their performance - no sense taking a shot in the dark, or going with your gut, when your bonus (or your job!) is on the line. I hope that we'll ultimately prove Mr. Wolk wrong - but I think he's been right up until now, and he's got a fair shot at being right into the future unless we can force change.

Monday, October 24, 2005

New link

I came across a blog last week from Bruce Hammonds, an education consultant in New Zealand. Lots of great thinking there, including a fair amount on the community's role in education. You can visit his blog here; I've also added it to my "friends" list.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Where does change come from?

I've been thinking a lot about education reform lately, specifically how it can happen in a system that is so large, has so much inertia, and - given that 90% of education is controlled by government - does not have free market-based incentives to change. (That last point isn't a veiled call for privatization, by the way - just acknowledgement that government tends not to be as responsive as revenue-driven enterprise.)

One fact I'd like to put on the table is that revolutionary change almost never comes from within: it almost always comes out of left field, from people who have nothing to lose and no vested interest in the status quo. I read James Utterback's "
Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation" a while back, and as he talks about industry transformation, he makes it clear that it's always an outside group that drives change, succeeding by offering a superior alternative to the status quo.

For example, the Tudor Ice Company came to dominate the sale and transport of harvested ice in the early to mid 19th century. Technological improvements saw the gradual introduction of commercial ice manufacturing plants in the South starting in 1869; this new industry, which could manufacture and distribute ice at any location (as opposed to harvesting from the North and shipping around the world), grew exponentially, peaking in the 1920s. Ice harvesters continued with process improvements - using steam powered circular saws instead of hand saws, for example - but the incremental efficiencies gained this way were no match for the quantum improvements and resulting benefits (price, availability, etc.) offered by the ice manufacturers, who gradually pushed the harvesters out of business. It is vital to note that the harvesters were not only not involved in the development of ice manufacturing, they actively fought it, and ultimately perished as a result of it. They lost the battle rather than adopting a better way to serve customers - they were so invested in the status quo that they failed to realize their job as getting ice to customers in the best way possible, and not simply as ice harvesters.

Of course, the manufacturers went through the exact same thing during the next innovation cycle. They fought - and fell to - the next generation of ice service, specifically the development of electromechanical refrigeration which gave people refrigerators and freezers in their own home, along with the convenience of making and enjoying ice by themselves.

This is not an isolated example: rather, it is the rule in innovation, that a company prospers through innovation, and then falls due to its interest in the technology it established when a new and better solution comes along.

There's much more nuance, and many more twists and turns, to any such story, and I would highly recommend Utterback's book. But the point remains: as a rule, disruptive innovation and radical change come from outside.

What does this mean for public education?

Cities and schools, working together

I met Paul Houston, president of the American Association of School Administrators, several years ago at an Educational Publishers Association conference, and have either heard him speak or read his essays several times since. He’s one of those people who can make great ideas very accessible – I’m always glad when I come across something he’s written.

I bring this up because he’s listed as co-author of a commentary in the 9/21 Education Week (I know I’m late, but it just arrived!). The article can be found
here (don't know if EdWeek considers this premium content or not - let me know if you can't access it.) He, along with Donald Borut, executive director of the National League of Cities and Anne Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association, wrote about the fact that cities and schools have strikingly similar goals for education, and that their needs to be a much higher level of collaboration and coordination to achieve their common goals.

In a series of similar surveys administered to their respective constituencies, the authors found that all see the value in a strong local education system, recognizing benefits in workforce capabilities, economic growth, community life, population retention, and higher real estate values. They also agreed on the challenges: hiring challenges, a lack of parental involvement, the achievement gap, and funding limitations. This, they argue, provides a new recognition of common ground for local schools and local governments to begin working in a more collaborative way in areas such as public awareness and engagement, establishment of “wraparound” services (such as after school programs), and even cost-sharing for some facilities.

The article wraps up as follows:

…each organization acknowledges that the education of our children is too
important to be left solely to schools. Education must be a collective
enterprise and community-wide priority…

Strong cities need strong schools. Strong schools, in turn, need the
active support of city and community leaders. Municipal and school officials can
embrace their interdependency while still acknowledging and respecting their
unique roles and responsibilities. But “business as usual” is no longer an
option. Only with a renewed sense of urgency on both sides will effective
city-school partnerships sprout and put down the deep roots that are essential
to improve our public schools and help all the children reach the high standards
we have set for them.

I’m going to be looking into what practical steps are behind this inspiring talk – what their respective organizations are doing to drive change – and hope to report further on this. In the meantime, I will say it’s encouraging to see that these organizations have been talking and working towards these conclusions.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Cluetrain and education outreach

I've just finished reading The Cluetrain Manifesto by Locke, Levine, Searles, and Weinberger. It was a revolutionary conversation-starter when it was published in 2000, and its influence can be clearly felt in any number of areas as people grapple to understand the impact of the Internet on nearly every aspect of society.

If you're not familiar with it, the gist is that many components of our society are built on a command-and-control structure, and that the Internet subverts that structure by allowing individuals to go around the hierarchy to access information and talk with others outside of formal (ie, controlled) channels. The book's three-word synopsis is that "markets are conversations", an earth-shattering shift when you think through the implications. (If you haven't read the book, it's worth your while - you can even read it for free on line at the link above if you don't want to pay for it.)

I'm thinking about how the concepts in this book relate to education - both education in general and to society's role in it. A lot of the heavy lifting, it turns out, has been done for me by Scott Adams, who sparked some conversations of his own by doing a simple find/replace of Cluetrain's 95 theses to tailor it to education (click
here to review it). And Scott Moore does something similar here.

One of my core beliefs is that, for the education system to succeed, it needs to engage with its stakeholders - parents, communities, business, government, etc. - and that its tradition of operating as a black box has distanced and alienated stakeholders and allowed stakeholder support of all kinds - financial, volunteer, political, etc. - to atrophy. At the recent Business Education Network, Gene Hickok noted that most people today look at education as education's business and no longer see their role in the process, and this sort of disengagement makes it almost impossible for a system designed to prepare children for a productive role in society to succeed.

One of the exciting things about Cluetrain is the way it allows you to look at the corporation in a different light - that in the early early days of commerce, there were just buyers and sellers in a big bazaar, talking face to face, and that a byproduct of mass production was the development of a wall between buyers and sellers called "the corporation." And as an act of self-preservation, the corporation instituted official channels so that the people inside (employees) and the people outside (customers) could no longer talk without filters that were both restrictive (reducing the time that employees spent on 'unproductive' things like talking to customers) and incomplete (making sure that the message was 100% favorable to the company).

The education system seems to be like that - an artificial wall that filters communication with stakeholders, discouraging understanding and (as a corollary) active involvement. To be clear, I'm not talking about education discouraging involvement where it maintains an authoritarian role, like asking parents to volunteer on field trips, or make sure their kids do their homework. That sort of command-and-control request - "implement this thing without questioning why" is everpresent. I'm talking about real communication, where a parent or other community member has the knowledge base and equal footing to say "I understand that you're using whole language instruction to teach reading, but I know the research doesn't support it. Let's talk about instituting a phonics-based approach."

In a similar vein, if you brought a team of scientists in to a school to volunteer, what's more likely - that the school would channel them into helping students with existing lab work, despite the fact that a recent study (see
here) showed the existing lab model to be largely ineffective? Or would the school instead forego existing ways of operating and instead bring these scientists in as authorities and partners in the education process and give them the power to rebuild the lab model to make it relevant, real-world, and engaging?

The good news is that this is changing, partly by the way that the Internet enables people to easily access incredible amounts of information based on their interests, and partly by the societal shift that's taking place as a result of the Internet, empowering people to have direct, unfiltered interactions with any number of individuals and groups. Business (or other stakeholders) can now walk in with information in hand to say "there's a better way to do this - I can prove it, and I can help you fix it." That's the change we need, and it's the change I want to be a part of.

Monday, October 17, 2005

A rallying point for China

There's been precious little coverage of it in the US, but China's second manned space flight returned to Earth successfully today. The first, BTW, was in 2003, and it made China the third country (after Russia and the US) to put a man into space.

A quote from an article (link here) from the BBC:

The current mission comes almost exactly two years after China's first
manned spaceflight.

Beijing has attached great importance to its space programme, viewing
it as a source of national pride and international prestige.

China hopes to set up a space station within five years and eventually
it wants to put an astronaut on the Moon.

One interesting feature of this article is the set of interviews the BBC conducted with four Chinese about the spaceflight. The BBC calls them "four ordinary citizens", but it should be noted that they're all young professionals (a banker, lawyer, salesperson, scientific researcher), so no claim should be made that these are representative of the entire country. Regardless, it's interesting to hear real excitement about this event from members of their professional class. A quote from Yazhuo Ye in Ningbo:

There are a lot of exciting things happening around me - the world's
highest road, completed on Qinghai Plateau; the world's longest bridge is under
construction which will shorten our journey to Shanghai; and a new supermarket,
hotel and club are opening right opposite my house. My new flat's decoration is
being finished, my consulting company is opening and I am busy advertising it.

This manned spacecraft is just one of them. I feel it's a bit too
high-profiled and too commercial as scientific research though. Maybe its my
need to change - to accept scientists who can do more than 'just do it quietly'.

China is a moving world, only if you come here and experience it by

And this from Lawman Chen in Xiamen:
The painful recent history of China rouses the sense of responsibility of
Chinese people to build up a developed and advanced nation.

After dozens of years' efforts by Chinese people, the world has
witnessed the waking-up of the sleeping dragon. The manned space project is a
symbol of these efforts. It shows China's capacity to develop cutting-edge
technologies. It shows Chinese people's intelligence and diligence.

The success of this project will undoubtedly encourage Chinese people to study harder, work harder and research harder to make more and more miracles. Looking into the future, I expect the coming of another greater success - Chinese landing on the moon.

I would expect that space travel is indeed serving as a rallying point for China today, just as it did for the US in the 60s. It's an awesome accomplishment, and will undoubtedly fuel increased excitement about science, technology, and progress in a country that, by all accounts, is already on fire in these areas.

While I wish there had been more coverage of this event in the US, that's a minor concern when compared to the big picture: the Chinese are experiencing record growth and progress in so many areas (the space program, while a highly visible rallying point, is only one example), while the US continues to slog along, with little public discussion and even less real change in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.

Isn't it clear where this path ends?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Improving science and math education

I recently responded to a question on the Business Education Network forum (link to their site - including the forum - here) and thought I'd share my post here as well, since (I hope) it makes for good conversation on a critical subject. The question was about science and math instruction, to the effect of "what can we do to improve our international standings in this area." I'm a little embarassed by the length - it turned into a pretty long-winded tear - but there's a lot to be said. Here's my response:

Decided to launch the forum with the easy questions, I see :-)

Seriously, it took us a long time to get in the situation we're in, and it's going to take some time to turn things around. We need to respect the scope of the challenge ahead of us; it's going to take much more than a better textbook or an after-school program to drive real change in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. We also need to respect the fact that the rankings are a moving target - other countries aren't sitting still, but rather continuing to improve their own instructional practices and build learning infrastructure as we work to regain our footing.

Improving STEM education, IMHO, is something that needs to be approached holistically. There are a lot of moving parts here, and if we only fix one or two, the rest will continue to hold us down. A few areas to consider:

- A national call to action, akin to Kennedy's vision in 1961 to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Thomas Friedman argues that after 9/11, we had the opportunity to do something similar around energy (perhaps eliminating oil imports by the end of the decade by developing domestic alternatives), and I don't think it's too late to follow through on that.

- Teacher orientation to STEM instruction at all grade levels, particularly early grades. Someone in the science/math breakout session at the summit mentioned that our elementary teachers tend not to cover science and math since they've not been exposed to or trained in it; this compares to China, where specialists are on hand to infuse these subjects into the curriculum.

- An understanding of - and dissemination of - effective instructional practices in science and math education. I was amazed to hear a report from the National Academies National Research Council that our approach to science labs was, by and large, ineffective and largely unrelated to the curriculum (press release at, and if I'm not mistaken, the head of the NSTA largely agreed with their findings.

- Assessment is critical, and we have a major opportunity for greater attention to science as it falls under the NCLB umbrella next year. However, as I understand it, we still don't know how we're going to assess science knowledge, and that's a make-or-break decision. Is it going to be rote memorization, which is easy to test but ineffective in driving understanding and engagement? Or will it be more hands-on, but harder to test?

- We also need to link science and math to our kids' lives, highlighting real-world applications of STEM (introducing kids to robotics, computer programming of video games, and the like) and (and I understand this one's a long shot) glorifying STEM in popular culture. Friedman mentions how in China, Bill Gates is their version of Brittany Spears, while in the US, Brittany Spears is Brittany Spears. Glorifying our techheads, and finding ways to make science and math cool (which we do to some extent with shows like CSI and NUMB3RS), helps shape the national culture.

- We need STEM mentors for our kids, since mentors can make these subjects accessible, put a human face on these areas, and encourage students along certain career paths. Not only should we encourage scientific institutions to get involved in volunteer, mentor, and internship programs, we should also recognize that there's a huge opportunity arising as waves of baby boomer scientists start retiring.

In terms of corporate involvement, all of these areas are fair game, and any such initiatives would be making a contribution to STEM education. But I think we have to recognize that it's going to take a large effort in every one of these areas (and any others I've overlooked) to enact a coordinated effort towards change, which IMHO is the only way to improve our standing relative to the rest of the world.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

More great programs in the news

Still catching up on email after attending last week's Business Education Network Summit in Washington. A few program announcements that stood out as being interesting and possibly good models of education outreach programs:
  • To boost interest in science and math, iRobot and Google are underwriting the RoboNexus Education Outreach program, which covers the costs of transportation and admission for kids in grades K-12 in the San Jose school system to attend RoboNexus, an international annual event featuring personal, service, and mobile robots. Kids will be able to experience robots in a hands-on way, working with the "guts" of real robots and talking with robotics scientists. This kind of program can inspire kids with hands-on applications of science and math skills - very exciting.
  • DA Davidson, an investment firm in Montana, is fronting $1 Million for kids to gain real-world experience in investing. DA Davidson gives $50,000 to 20 colleges and allows students to invest that money - this is real money, with real fees, real losses, and real gains. Students work with a DA Davidson financial advisor (great volunteer opportunity for employees); the company absorbs any losses, and splits any profits above 5% with the colleges. While this is a college-based program, I include it as a great model for a future high school program.
  • iScienceProject is a contest open to schools that have purchased HOBO data loggers from Onset Computers. They recently highlighted one successful project, where 8th grade students solved a real school problem as part of their project. Students wanted to observe the efficiency of the school's HVAC system, and set data loggers in each classroom to track temperature and humidity. They were surprised to see huge increases in humidity after-hours and on weekends, when the AC was turned down. While conducting their experiment, they also became aware of a mold issue in the school, and included mold growth rates in their experiment - as a result, they discovered that the HVAC pattern was a major contributor to mold growth rates, which were starting to become visible within the school and even beginning to affect the breathing of older faculty members. I love to see this kind of program: real-life applications that allow kids to become involved in science in ways that matter to them and to the community.
It's exciting to see good examples of student engagement in real-world learning opportunities - I'll post more as I come across them.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The 364-day-a-year school

Thanks to my friend DK, I'm getting more exposure to both the current practices and new ideas found across the ocean in the UK. One exciting idea that's being considered by a local school executive is the year-round school (article here).

Paul Mortimer has put forth this idea as he looks to rebuild one of the two schools he manages. Students would still only attend for the statutory number of days - 190 - but they would be on multiple timetables, allowing him to build a smaller school (since only 2/3 of the students would be attending at a time) and also offer smaller class sizes.

Mortimer says he wants to have a school that reflects the realities of the 21st century, and not be bound to traditions of the 19th. From the article:

"It would meet the needs of children and families, given the changes in
people's working lives and it would use extended schools for the good of the

"The school would be a focal point of the community, like a modern
extension of the good old family, especially as many parents are single

Activities at the school would not always be of the usual teacher-pupil
variety, he said.

"They won't necessarily always be in the classroom. Part of the
curriculum could involve families engaging in activities in the sports

Not only would this reflect the reality of modern living (in terms of parents' work schedules and the like), it theoretically re-introduces the idea of school as the center of community, and learning at the center of the family. This is a very exciting idea - worth watching to see how it progresses.

New communication tools for teachers

I believe that one of the problems facing education today is a communications problem - that there is a thick fog between schools and their stakeholders through which communications are halting and infrequent (something akin to the fog of war). So it's always nice to see educators finding ways to improve communications with the rest of the world.

The Portsmouth Herald offers a story entitled "Internet builds bridges between school and home" (link
here) that highlights the use of websites by teachers in their attempts to improve communication with students and parents. Different schools have achieved different levels of sophistication: some teachers are simply posting basic static information (requirements for papers, syllabi, school calendars and the like), while others are operating at a more advanced level with password-protected areas, access to grade information, links to chatrooms and other online learning resources. Implementation rates are mixed: in some schools participation is mandatory and in others it's optional.

It's worth noting that this is happening in the same area as a prominent ubiquitous computing initiative. The Portsmouth Herald serves New Hampshire and the lower part of Maine, and Maine was one of the first states to launch a 1-to-1 laptop initiative whereby every 7th and 8th grader in the state receives a laptop from their school. (Information on that initiative

This may be overreaching, but one would logically expect to see a correlation between the widespread availability of computers and an increased application of practical uses of that technology, right? Regardless, it's great to see schools leveraging technology towards a practical and productive end: clearing away the communications fog and strengthening relationships with parents and students.

Report on the Business Education Network Summit

I spent the latter half of last week attending the first annual Business Education Network Summit in Washington DC. This event, hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce, sought to increase dialogue on the need for business involvement in education, and it was a fantastic launch event for the new Business Education Network (BEN). I've collected my notes from the summit in a new white paper entitled "Notes from the 2005 Business Education Network Summit" (I never was very creative with titles ;-) ); it can be found in PDF format on the DeHavilland Associates website here.

If you'd like to learn more about BEN, visit their new site here. I would encourage anyone with an interest in education outreach or business-education partnerships to get involved - this has the potential to be a tremendously valuable organization.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The benefit of blogging

Trevor Cook's blog, Corporate Engagement, directed me to a great quote from Neal Boorstin (here):

"I write to discover what I think," he
explained. "After all, the bars aren't open that early."

I've long thought that in-depth writing - primarily white papers - forced me to really learn a subject and think through my position. This resulted not only in a contribution to the body of knowledge (and I'm sure that part is debatable :-) ), but also forced me to think through my convictions and verify my assumptions. I'm noticing that blogging is having a similar effect, but in a smaller, bite-sized way.

If you're not doing some type of reflective writing - blogging, keeping a journal, etc. - I'd recommend it based on my experience.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Making technology ubiquitous in global education

Nev Muftari forwarded me a link about Nicholas Negroponte's efforts to make a $100 laptop and distribute it worldwide. China, Brazil, Thailand, Egypt, and South Africa have all signed on for a pilot program using 15 million units - article 1=7128">here.

Negroponte calls this the advent of open source education - making technology available to all, and it's a very exciting development. Having worked my way halfway through The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, it's also frightening - but inexorable I imagine. This is the future - and from a US point of view, we need to acknowledge it. Not only should we ensure ubiquitous computing within our own borders, we should also allow technology to transform education as it has transformed so many other industries. Currently we're using technology as an overlay, which has proven ineffective - we need to let the use of technology in education reflect the real world. At the very least we need to make sure that each student has his or her own computer - the national recommendation of 4 students per computer was obviously not the recommendation of someone who's had to share a computer with three other people in their office.

Best of luck to Negroponte's effort - it's a wonderful initiative, and I hope we in the US heed a similar call for ubiquity within our borders.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Life skills

Like the US, Britain has seen increasing levels of childhood obesity. Unlike the US, they're making substantial national strides to address the issue - first, by banning junk food from school grounds (a move that happened last week), and now, by introducing cooking classes as a required part of the secondary school curriculum (article in the Times Online here).

There are various initiatives at the local and state level in this country to remove soft drinks and junk food from schools; however, I have yet to hear anything about introducing essential life skills like healthy cooking. One could argue that students should be learning this at home; however, that's clearly not happening, and the nutrition education that will no doubt occur as part of the experiential cooking instruction is certainly beyond what students could receive at home.

Who's up for offering cooking classes - and as long as we're dreaming, serving those up with a side of regular PE?

Two new resources from DeHavilland

Sometimes you forget to mention the obvious - like the fact that I published two new white papers last week, both of which are available on the DeHavilland Associates website at no cost and with no registration requirements.

They include:
  • Options in Education Outreach - A white paper introducing a range of program models used by organizations supporting K-12 education
  • 7 Steps to Building Your Education Outreach Campaign - A white paper outlining a proven approach to campaign design that accommodates the needs of the education market and campaign sponsors
here to access them.

Two more great programs

In the news today:
  • Alcoa owns quite a bit of land in North Carolina, where it operates hydroelectric stations, dams, and reservoirs. One one of its properties is a signficant archeological find - The Hardaway site - which is one of the oldest sites in the Eastern US, dating back 10,000 years. Today, Alcoa announced a gift of 1.3 million artifacts from the site to the University of North Carolina, along with $220,000 earmarked for K-12 outreach. Release here.
  • Box Tops For Education, a program founded by General Mills that has distributed more than $150 million to schools since 1996, is doing more than cash donation these days. Recognizing the role that parents play in education, the organization has announced "the Box Tops for Education Kids' Caucus, a one-of-a-kind assembly of kids, parents, education officials and members of Congress to discuss solutions to improving parental involvement in education in the United States. The Kids' Caucus will be held on Capitol Hill in April 2006 and provide an opportunity for those who deal with parental involvement in education each day; parents, teachers and children, to offer practical insight to education officials into how parental involvement in education can be improved." Kids can become eligible by participating in an essay contest; details here.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Top college grads start teaching

My friend DK of Phatgnat brought a NYT article to my attention today - "Top Graduates Line Up to Teach the Poor" (link here - free registration required). The article talks about Teach For America, a nonprofit organization started in 1989, and how it connects graduates of some of the top schools in the country with two-year stints in some of the country's highest-need schools. From the article:

For a surprisingly large number of bright young people, Teach for America -
which sends recent college graduates into poor rural and urban schools for two
years for the same pay and benefits as other beginning teachers at those schools
- has become the next step after graduation. It is the postcollege do-good
program with buzz, drawing those who want to contribute to improving society
while keeping their options open, building an ever-more impressive résumé and
delaying long-term career decisions.

This year, Teach for America drew applications from 12 percent of
Yale's graduates, 11 percent of Dartmouth's and 8 percent of Harvard's and
Princeton's. The group also recruits for diversity, and this year got
applications from 12 percent of the graduates of Spelman College, a historically
black women's college in Atlanta.

And while the commitment is only for two years, the article reports that more than half of Teach For America alumni remain involved in education, often in administrative or policy positions. This is definitely one piece of the solution to a better education system: getting bright students from some of the best universities in the country into the classroom and into the discussion on where education needs to go. Thanks DK!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Disruption in the textbook market

For those familiar with Wikipedia and what it has done to the encyclopedia industry, you will either be thrilled or horrified to hear that they're now attempting to do the same thing in the textbook industry.

This article on CNet covers the basics: that Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, has been working on Wikibooks, which is billed at its site as a collection of open-book textbooks that anyone can edit. That the project is young - only 11,000+ book modules to date (as opposed to nearly 750,000 entries on Wikipedia) - but, like Wikipedia, has the potential to grow exponentially and change the nature of publishing in a new market.

Wikipedia decimated the encyclopedia industry; I once read a quote from Wales to the effect of, "we're turning the $10 billion encyclopedia industry into a $1 billion industry." The textbook market is close to a $3 billion market - wonder what will happen here?

Given the potential cost savings, this may be the killer app that finally allows technology to force changes in the traditional education model (as it has for most other industries). There will of course be concerns about the credibility of its content; however, as Steven Brewer, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts states in the article:

Brewer also hopes Wikibooks opens up a new
kind of learning opportunity for students because it leverages the power of
digital information that is instantly modified and easily researched.

"There are a number of things people can
do...that don't require Wikibooks to be finished yet," Brewer said. "The big one
is to get students involved in producing materials (and) also vetting materials
(and) also adding elaboration to materials."

He envisions teachers--at any level--asking
students to examine existing Wikibooks entries for accuracy and relevancy and
then appending their findings to those entries. That would allow the project to
become a teaching tool and a work in progress all at once.

Textbooks are a mainstay of K-12 instruction; it will be fascinating to see what effect this project has on our education system, whether schools will forego the authority of textbooks and give students access to a participative form of learning, one that aligns with their orientation to the Internet and has the power to strengthen their critical thinking skills.