K12OnlineConference: It’s a Flat, Flat World

by Brian Bridges
The K12 Online Conference has started, not that you might have missed anything. In a flat world, like TIVO, life is time shifted, so that we all don’t have to be in the same room to enjoy the same content. David Warlick’s keynote, which i’ve just finished watching, is an excellent example of utilizing the flat world to connect presenters and audience in a way not possible in the analog world. (plus, you can fast forward past the boring parts)

Give the conference a try.

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Education Week: Teacher Unions Get Flat

From the April 25th Education Week comes an article about how teacher unions may understand the power of flat professional development. Entitled “Teachers’ Unions Taking Professional Development Online”, it began,

“The nation’s largest teachers’ union plans to put a popular workshop for new teachers online soon, starting what could be a large-scale move into digital professional development run from the union’s Washington headquarters.

Structured as a four-hour class, its modules include audio and video content, as well as text, and quizzes. They hope to reach 400,000 to 500,000 teachers this summer.

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Professional Development in a Flat Word, Part 2

by Brian Bridges

I’ve been thinking about the Flat World, ever since reading Thomas Freedman’s book, “The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century.” It’s an excellent look into how the world has changed the past six years. His previous book ” The Lexus and The Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization” shows us how globalization has connected countries and economies and how the “herd” of investors helps keep economies in check. Both books are tightly connected, but it’s the flat world that’s been consuming our attention.

My question: Given how the flat world is moving jobs offshore, how will our mission at CTAP be affected? Our work is primarily customer service. We provide a great deal of professional development directed to teachers, administrators, and technical support personnel, in both large and small groups, both hands-on and lecture style; we inservice district teams to write their technology plans and then help groom them; and we assist in helping districts meet their CDE obligations. How, though, will the flat world impact our professional development work, and what should we do now, to combat the oncoming wave?

Technology Skills classes, still one of the staples of hands-on training, consist of classes in word processing, presentation software, and other productivity programs. While many users prefer to attend these classes in a “live” setting where they are in the same location as the presenter, many online skills training sites are equally competitive. Take Atomic Learning . For an annual fee, users have access to an unlimited number of pre-recorded skills classes, each consisting of a varying number of one to three minute video clips that explain and demonstrate a discreet skill. This enables users to access just the training components they need. Users can choose to watch an entire class, or they can select any of the individual components. In a flat world, pre-recorded skills classes enable educators to learn the specific skills they need at the time they desire and to return to the class any time they want to refresh their knowledge.

CTAP Region 3 Director Ben Anderson understands flat-world professional development, and he’s developed a model and a web site for ensuring electronic access to his professional development classes. His site, the EdTech Leadership Network hosts both live and recorded training. On one hand, he’s developed a skills training site, CTAP Multimedia Technology Tutorials, that is similar to Atomic Learning. For an annual subscription fee, users will have unlimited access to all their skills tutorials.

However, Region 3 has also entered the world of live, online training through their CTAP Live Online Staff Development Workshops. Using Breeze Live (now renamed Adobe Connect), educators may participate in live, two-hour classes on a variety of skills. Session leaders use video and audio as they demonstrate program components. Breeze Live also includes components to broadcast PowerPoint presentations or desktop programs, chat screens that allow students to participate in discussions, and file libraries to distribute handouts. CTAP 3 is competing in the flat world and broadening their customer base to include educators not only from their region, but from any region in the world.

Good news for educators. While the enterprise version of Adobe Connect (Breeze Live) still costs more than $10K per year, they now offer a smaller license that all0ws you to host one training room with up to 15 participants at a time. For $39 per month, you, too, can now enter the world of flat professional development.
New K12HSN Program
In our last article, we highlighted the K12 High Speed Network as a free resource for use in group meetings or trainings. Recently, the K12HSN, in partnership with Polycom has introduced the K12HSN Interactive Desktop Solution (KIDS) program. Through a three-step process that includes a brief application, online training, and accountability reporting, teachers will receive a free copy of Polycom’s desktop client for Windows. More information is available at: <http://www.k12hsn.org/conferencing/training/>. Some CTAP regions have begun to offer professional development using videoconferencing over the K12HSN, with workshops focused on integrating videoconferencing into the classroom. The KIDS program will do much to further this flat-world connectivity.

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COSN, Day 2: the Wal Martization of America – the Flat World vs. Education and Jobs

by Brian Bridges

Thursday began by spotlighting Pennylvania’s initiatives to utilize technology in support of professional development and classroom integration.

This session got off to a bad start when the governor of Pennsylvania, via a recorded speech, completely got wrong the effect of the flat world. He told a story of American companies who were granting H1B visas to field computer programmers for their companies. His call for educational reform was based on the idea that American workers weren’t prepared for these programming positions that pay between $45K-$50K/year.

OK, let’s step back. What talented American worker, having gone to a four-year college, would settle for this salary range, one that was easily double to triple a few years ago. The governor referenced that these H1B workers were making four times their home country salaries, which I’ve no doubt is true. However, what he completely missed is the flat world has enabled the Wal Martization of technology careers, moving jobs abroad or bringing cheaper labor here to increase profits.

He is right that we are competing not with ourselves, but with every country. The flat world has shortened the path and broken the barriers between workers and employers. Cheap, high-speed Internet and an increasingly large pool of talented, intelligent workers from abroad are quickly threatening high-skilled, and well-paid technology positions here at home. This is a natural effect of the flat world. There will always be cheaper workers, whether it be for making shoes or writing program code.

I would challenge that American workers aren’t prepared. Instead, I’d suggest that we’re really not prepared for a complete salary paradigm shift. As a society, we’ll either need to reduce our expectations or we’ll need to innovate new industries and applications. We either need to expect less of our employers and our government, or we’ll need to adapt our educational system to create more innovative professionals.

I’ll concede that we need to raise expectations for our students and reform education to increase the American talent pool. However, politicians rarely see the complex dynamics that are intertwined in the solution. Perhaps I’ll climb that hill another day.

 

 

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CoSN, Day 1: Online Professional Development

 

by Brian Bridges

It’s day one of CoSN’s annual conference in San Francisco (CoSN is the Consortium of School Networking). During Session One, I was fascinated by David Myers’ description of Michigan’s online learning portal for professional development and by their Education Department’s commitment to extending online learning’s reach. Apparently, they’ve proposed to require all teachers to take at least one online course, which is their way of breaking the ice with the teaching force. From about $1M start-up funds in 1998, they’ve built a system, using their portal and Blackboard, to deliver a variety of professional development courses online.

Many of their courses are designed to last 25-30 hours, meeting two to three times per week online.

Jennifer Peace described her project, eLearning Delaware, which is being implemented in eight states. She discussed the group, EdTech Leaders Online (ETLO), which was designed to build organizational capacity to use online learning. Their class offering is a semester long class to train class facilitators, who are then certified to conduct online PD. Facilitators continue to be supported during their first year.

Their courses for teachers last six sessions, and contain an overview, readings, activities, and discussions. The noted the difficulty of creating discussion questions that engage your students. E-Learning also uses Blackboard as their course management system.

Very interesting. It makes me wonder why California hasn’t approached this model for some of the trainings required of teachers and administrators. With our emphasis on meeting the needs of underserved school districts (like small and rural sites), shouldn’t California being creating an online learning system?

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Professional Development in a Flat World, Part 1

I’ve been thinking about the Flat World, ever since attending Alan November’s CUE 2006 session last March. Thomas Freedman’s book, “The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century” is an excellent look into how the world has changed the past six years. His previous book ” The Lexus and The Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization” shows us how globalization has connected countries and economies and how the “herd” of investors helps keep economies in check. I see both books as tightly connected, but it’s the flat world that’s been consuming my attention.

My question: Given how the flat world has moved jobs offshore, how will our mission at CTAP be affected? Our work is primarily customer service. We provide a great deal of professional development; we train districts to write their technology plans and then help groom them; we assist in helping districts meet their CDE obligations; and we create a yearly technology conference, ETC.

How, though, will the flat world impact our professional development work, and what should we do now, to combat the oncoming wave? This is the subject of a series of articles I’m writing for the onCUE Journal in our column, onCTAP. Episode one is below.

I’d appreciate your comments and your ideas.

Professional Development in a Flat World, Part 1

Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat describes how companies have become more competitive as educated workforces in other countries vie for the same work. Fueled by cheap, high-speed Internet, collaborative software, outsourcing, and global competition, few industries are safe from its effects. Call tech support and you might be talking to someone in India. Your drive-in order at McDonalds might be taken by someone in another state. Companies that don’t adapt to compete in the newly flat world will be among the first to go bankrupt.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the same forces that have flattened the world are poised to have the same effect on professional development programs. Cheap Internet, collaborative software, high-quality video conferencing, and global competition may just as easily allow your customers to outsource all or part of their local training programs.

However, just as in-person tech support will survive as we bring our computers to Best Buy for repair, face-to-face professional development will also continue to exist, although in a reduced capacity. As professional development flattens, more teachers and districts will have access to alternative training models to provide more timely and economical training that fits their needs. Teachers and administrators, who are working longer hours and facing increasing traffic congestion, may be the early adopters, but the wave has already begun to hit our shore.

To survive, how should your professional development program adapt to be more competitive? What technologies should you incorporate into your training programs? If you’re an educator, what flat world training opportunities are available you? We’ll explore these questions below and in future columns.

In The World is Flat, Friedman offers a number of rules companies (and we’d argue, trainers) should follow in order to compete in a flat world. Here’s a summary of some of his recommendations: 1) Instead of building walls to avoid change, we should get out our shovels and dig deep inside for solutions; 2) Small companies should act big and extend their reach by taking advantage of new collaboration tools; 3) To create value for your customers in an increasingly complex environment, improve your collaborations both within and outside your organization; and 4) Outsource to grow, not to shrink. Outsource to innovate faster and more cheaply.

K12HSN Video Conferencing
One important collaboration tool, video conferencing, will be an essential part of flat professional development programs as organizations expand their client base by creating one-to-one or one-to-many meetings. While instant messenger programs are popular with consumers, their cross-platform reliability and limited group size makes them incompatible for professional development. Quality video conferencing requires the H.323 protocol. Fortunately H.323 clients are available for both platforms. Xmeeting is a free, open-source video conferencing client for the Macintosh. For Window’s computers, Polycom sells equally popular room conferencing systems and desktop software.

To engage in a multi-party videoconference, connect to the K12 High Speed Network to schedule a meeting time and channel. Funded by the state, their services are free. Effective use of video conferencing will help you compete for customers in a flat world. We’ll explore other resources and ideas for competing in a flat world in our next article.

Brian

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