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Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1637

This week on “Oklahoma Horizon,” we look how the digital revolution is changing the way we learn.
Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1637

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1637

For more information visit these links:

OSSBA

Wesley Fryer

WSU - Global Campus

Gordon Cooper Technology Center

CareerTech - SkillsUSA

FIRST Robotics

Tom Vander Ark

MOOC

EdX

Coursera

Udacity

OSU: Farm to Fork

MOOC List

Show Details

Show 1637: Oklahoma Horizon TV
Air Date: September 11, 2016

 

Transcript

Rob McClendon: Here’s what’s coming up on your “Horizon.” In recent years we have seen an almost 40 percent decline in students pursuing education degrees, a trend that could have an impact well beyond the classroom. Today, we begin our show by looking at the impact the digital revolution is having on how we learn.

Wesley Fryer: We tend to look at technology today and say, “Wow! Look! Technology!” But it’s really the tool of our day. If we’re going to help students become full participants in the 21st century, they have to have access to those kinds of tools.

Rob: Courtney Maye introduces us to a young Oklahoman whose interest in engineering is helping her fly high.

Whitney Heer: Being in the cockpit, being the person that’s there, like everything that you do is what the airplane’s going to do, totally different experience. It’s a little bit scary, but amazing at the same time.

Rob: I talk to education innovator Tom Vander Ark.

Tom Vander Ark: The reason this isn’t just another fad or reform, the system’s being enveloped by technology in the consumer space, right. It’s at home, it’s everywhere, so this is an undeniable shift in the way human beings learn.

Rob: And we end our day with an online education trend with the odd name. Stay with us for “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Female Announcer: “Oklahoma Horizon” is made possible by CareerTech – a job for every Oklahoman and a workforce for every company; with additional support from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. The start of the school year has been a rough one for many school districts around the state -- more than 1,500 teaching positions and an additional 1300 support staff jobs all eliminated due to state budget cuts. Earlier this summer, we talked with some new want-to-be teachers, straight out of college and still looking for work. And what they told us? Well, it wasn’t encouraging.

Wait til this summer, wait til July, we’ll see. I keep hoping that the money will come through and I keep thinking that in August they’ll be desperate for teachers again, so that’s what I keep telling myself.

Rob: Yet despite the difficulty of some finding a job, Oklahoma still has a teacher shortage. Since the end of school last year, the state board has approved 730 emergency certificates for prospective teachers with their bachelors’, but not the right subject matter certifications. According to a survey done by the Oklahoma State School Board Association, more than half of school leaders say hiring teachers was more difficult this year than compared to last year, while a full half of all Oklahoma school districts expect to increase class size this year. At the same time 34 percent of the superintendents surveyed say they will be forced to limit their class offerings this school year. And it’s a problem magnified by three growing trends, not enough teachers specializing in science and English and too many experienced teachers leaving the profession altogether or just going to another state for more money. Which led us to ask the following question: Exactly what are the demands of today’s classrooms? And here with some answers is our Blane Singletary.

Blane Singletary: Rob, the classroom of today is drastically different than the classroom you or your parents might be familiar with. Digital technology has transformed the way students learn and the way teachers teach.

Blane Singletary: It’s programming day at this STEM class at Independence Elementary School in Yukon.

Wesley Fryer: STEM class is science, technology, engineering and math, and it is a class designed to get kids really excited about doing learning using those different content areas.

Blane: Wesley Fryer is the teacher of this class and something of an advocate for STEM. And you can’t spell STEM without the T. Technology is taken seriously here as students’ lives become more and more digital.

Fryer: Well, technology is huge. I mean, we tend to look at technology today and say, “Wow! Look! Technology!” But it’s really the tool of our day. If we’re going to help students become full participants in the 21st century, they have to have access to those kinds of tools.

Blane: That means even outside of this programming project, they’ll be using computers and tablets to not only look up information, but also to share and publish their results. Fryer says that’s essential in this new blended learning reality where the physical classroom is merging with the online world. While that opens many doors for today’s students, it also creates new challenges.

Fryer: It’s an important thing that we didn’t have to do back in the day because the textbook was where we got that content. And today, especially as a teacher, I would be so constrained if the textbook was all that we had. But it challenges me as a teacher to find that credible content and then to help my students become critical thinkers about that content. And it leads to more conversations than just, “What is this?” It’s also, “Where did this come from?” “Who else is saying this?” “How do we know this is valid and true?”

Blane: This critical thinking plays a key role as classrooms like his move away from teaching to the test and favoring more project-based learning.

Fryer: It’s like show and tell. Show me what you know, and there’s a menu of media that you can use to do that.

Blane: We’re even beginning to see a menu of media students can choose from as far as how they attend class. When Fryer’s day is done at school, he goes home and teaches an online course through videoconferencing.

Fryer: I’ve been teaching graduate courses through the University of Montana, and I teach that over video from my house and online, so it’s a blended class.

Blane: His students, mostly teachers themselves, log in from all over the country for his course about using technology in the classroom. In a way, this online course works as a perfect example of what he’s talking about.

Fryer: All of us are overwhelmed and fearful, and the easiest thing for me to do, not as much with students but especially with adults, is to scare them and overwhelm them. So in doing a seven-part course, like the one we’re doing tonight, it really lets us bite small pieces at a time and lets the teachers create things and share them, and I just, I love that model.

Blane: And it’s not just teachers seeking a convenient means of professional development who are taking advantage of these online courses. We spoke to David Cillay, who manages Washington State University’s Global Campus. He says they treat their online courses like any others on campus.

David Cillay: It’s part of their job. They‘re teaching an online course. It’s not an overload, it’s not something extra, it's their job. And we work very hard to help faculty understand how to be effective in an online environment.

Blane: And that means the instructor’s job isn’t done once the course is published. They stay active and coach students through the content. This is important since more and more college hopefuls might be choosing this path in the future.

Cillay: You’re seeing a market open up for students that would have never set foot on a traditional campus, and now they have access to those programs. And in many ways I see the online education as complimentary to the on-campus, rather than competitive.

Blane: While it sounds great on paper, this shift towards digital learning is causing a lot of disruptions in the education field from the way we teach to the way we’re taught and even the way schools and students buy textbooks. But Cillay says it’s time for teachers and students young and old to ride this wave of change.

Cillay: Thinking about a different way of doing it is often times uncomfortable for someone who has done it one way for so long. But, you know, you think about society, and, you know, we bank online, we shop online, we date online. It seems to be just like a natural progression, and our students are pushing us in that direction. They’re expecting that convenience and that flexibility.

Blane: There’s still many questions left to answer about 21st century learning, but these teachers say it’s no different than what their students do on a daily basis. Again, Wesley Fryer

Fryer: That’s a lot of how we learn. As we try and see how it works, we get feedback, and we try again. It’s just an iterative process of learning, and as teachers we’re all learning, you know. If we’ve stopped learning, we’ve probably stopped teaching.

 

Rob McClendon: Now, when we return, we will meet a product of these new blended technology classrooms who is now flying high in a Navy jet.

Female Announcer: You’re watching “Oklahoma Horizon” with Rob McClendon – weekly insight into your changing world.

Rob McClendon: Well, the late Gordon Cooper is one of several small town Oklahomans who rocketed into space as a NASA astronaut. Cooper was one of the seven original Mercury astronauts and now the namesake of the CareerTech technology center in his hometown of Shawnee, which is where our Courtney Maye met a young lady whose interest in engineering now has her flying high.

Courtney Maye: Whitney Heer joined the pre-engineering academy at Gordon Cooper Technology Center as a sophomore in high school. Fast forward seven years and she’s now a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and is in flight training school. Heer hopes to fly jets in the military, and it was Gordon Cooper Technology Center that gave her the math foundation she needed.

Courtney Maye: Since she was 8 years old, Whitney Heer wanted to fly jets. And today, her dream hasn’t changed.

Whitney Heer: When I was 8 years old, my mom took me to OU Sooner Flight Academy, and through that camp you learn all things, everything associated with flight. Like aerodynamics, how rockets fly, how airplanes fly, everything like that, and at the end of the week, once you’ve learned all of those things, they take you up in a small aircraft, and you get to fly for probably about a half an hour. Ever since then I’ve wanted to be a pilot, and I found out that, you know, the military flies jets, so I wanted to join the military and fly jets.

Courtney: Heer found her pathway to the military while in high school when she joined Gordon Cooper Technology Center’s pre-engineering program, which gave her the math and science foundation she needed to enter the Naval Academy.

Heer: The pre-engineering academy drew me to Gordon Cooper. So this gave me kind of a solid platform to stand on as far as physics, chemistry and math.

Courtney: Sue Frericks is a pre-engineering instructor at Gordon Cooper Technology Center. Frericks taught Heer while she was in the pre-engineering academy, and she is still the person Heer calls for advice today.

Sue Frericks: Whitney was incredibly -- gritty is the word I would use -- because she worked hard and she never gave up. She was always willing to come in after class or to ask questions and just stick with it to get it done, whatever that took.

Heer: My instructors kind of just, they kept me going on the frustrating days. You know, I’m not good at physics, I’m not good at math, and they’re like well you want to go to the Naval Academy so we need to get this figured out. I spent hours after school with Miss Frericks doing math for the ACT, just practicing those problems and things.

Courtney: As a student at Gordon Cooper, Heer was involved in SkillsUSA, public speaking and First Robotics, and she spends her spare time mentoring students in these organizations.

Frericks: It is really important to us to see our students carry on that tradition of mentoring and reaching out and helping other people see opportunities that are available in STEM.

Courtney: Heer will spend the next few months in flight training school doing what she loves – flying.

Heer: Flying is probably the most amazing experience I’ve ever had, and flying in a jetliner, you know, you hop on Southwest or something and fly across the country, that’s not the same. Being in the cockpit, being the person that’s there, it’s like everything that you do is what the airplane’s gonna do. Totally different experience. It’s a little bit scary but amazing at the same time.

Courtney Maye: Once Heer finishes flight training school she will be placed in a platform specific school based on her skill level. And when a student masters his or her specific platform, jets for example, they report to their first squadron. 

Rob McClendon: All right. Well, we certainly wish her luck. Thank you so much, Courtney.

Courtney: You’re welcome, Rob.

Female Announcer: Still to come on “Oklahoma Horizon,” an education for education’s sake, but first, the ever-changing classroom.

Rob McClendon: Well, if there is a revolution underway in education, Tom Vander Ark may well be leading it. A former senior executive turned educator, Vander Ark has served as the head of the XPrize Foundation as well as being the first director of education for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And I was able to visit with him about just how quickly our classrooms are changing.


Rob: Tom, you’ve said we’re at the beginning stages of education reform. What are some of the big changes that you’re seeing and what are some of the big changes that we have yet to see?

Tom Vander Ark: We’re in the earlier stages of this shift from print to digital, so we’re seeing big increases in student access to technology. Many schools are encouraging kids to bring their own device so school is a much more connected place, and then secondly, educators are gaining a better sense of what to do with all of that, that connectivity. There, there’s exciting new tools – applications, mobile apps and web apps – and these new school models where kids sort of take advantage of the best of both worlds of rotating through online learning and face-to-face learning.

Rob: And is that called a blended classroom?

Vander Ark: It’s a blended classroom or a blended school model.

Rob: And I think you made an important point. You know, there was a time when a student would come in with their cell phone and get in trouble, but those days are quickly passing.

Vander Ark: They are. It’s really become the majority of schools have updated their acceptable use policy to make it OK to bring a device to school. Now, in many cases they’re still allowing teachers to make the final decision about what happens in the classroom in the extent to which they, they use the device. But it’s becoming the norm that schools have a policy that say you can bring a device. They usually ask them to use the local network, and then they have an acceptable use policy that, that makes it clear there’s some times you can use it and some times you can’t. And there’s some good sites to go to and some sites that are prohibited. So getting the policy right is important. Reinforcing the practice classroom to classroom is even more important.

Rob: I want to talk about adaption, and I want to just start off with students. They adapted to this new technology, I’m assuming, very well?

Vander Ark: Most of them do. Most of them are using a lot of technology outside of school, and so when they come into school we ask ‘em to sort of shut down. We were talking about an algebra class. If you walk into most algebra classes it’s really boring, you know, and you contrast that with their life of playing videogames and always texting – high engagement, high activity – and then walk into a classroom where there’s worksheets where kids are all supposed to do the same thing at the same time and the same way. And the gulf between sort of real life and class life for many kids is really wide. And it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s so many great math applications. You can make math really exciting, and now a teacher can run a math class where every kid is working at their own pace where they have a playlist that really closely matches their individual needs. And soon we’ll be at a place where you can not only match the level but the sort of best learning modality. So if you learn best with games and I learn best with simulations or with group activities, I can do more of how I learn best and you can do more of how you learn best. And so these sort of customized pathways are gonna become much more common.

Rob: What about the educator? I know there has to be adoption there if they’re gonna teach this type of classroom.

Vander Ark: First of all, there’s a third of our teachers have adopted these new tools and are off and running. So first task is to find out what is already happening in your classroom. So superintendents need to spend time in classrooms, and they ought to survey and find out what teachers are already using. Secondly, there’s a group of teachers that just aren’t yet comfortable with the new technology or the new teaching strategies, so we need to do a better job of supporting those teachers. The interesting thing is the solution is the same as it is for kids. They ought to have a blended learning experience where they have their own individual development plan, and that’s supported by a bunch of online resources that they can access anytime, anywhere. And they ought to work in a team where they can learn from master teachers. The exciting thing is that we can not only better support teachers, but we can create these environments that just have much, much better working conditions for teachers.

Rob: Can this new system, can it evolve in the established system when we’re seeing smaller and smaller budgets coming to at least public schools? Is this something that develops outside of public schools?

Vander Ark: The answer is both. And we’re seeing, we’re seeing interesting charter schools being developed and interesting private schools. The most interesting thing is that, and the reason this isn’t just another fad or a reform, the system is being enveloped by technology in the consumer space – it’s at home, it’s everywhere. So this is an undeniable shift in the way human beings learn. It’s not something that is gonna come and go. It is how we learn, and we just need to find ways to really take advantage of it. And the smaller budgets, the good news is that while there’s a capital investment in, in new technology and training to go with it, it is possible to create schools that work better, that are sustainable even on lower budgets.

Rob: So if that is where we are now -- you say we’re at the beginning -- where do we go to?

Vander Ark: It’s an interesting future. I spend all my time thinking about that and writing about that. What seems very clear, especially at the secondary level, our students are gonna have a lot more learning choices. They’ll have more learning choices in school. We’re moving from big unitary textbooks to modular learning. And so you’re learning might be a playlist just like on iTunes – a videogame and then a chapter and then a simulation and then some problems. So you’ll have a playlist of these modular objects. But you’ll also have the ability to choose from some online classes – some that your district offers and some that come from a tech center down the road, some from another teacher that’s been approved as a statewide provider. So you’ll have this big catalog of opportunities, of blended classes at school and then online classes from many different providers. So I’m excited about that range of options, but what we need to pay attention to is we need to make sure that as we expand all these options that there’s a, there’s a spine of guidance and support. So that we’re making kids make good decisions and that they’re getting the academic support that they need even though they’re taking classes from a number of different people.

Rob: All right, well certainly some interesting, exciting times in education. Tom Vander Ark, thank you for you insights.

Vander Ark: Thanks.

Female Announcer: “Horizon” is at your fingertips – join us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to catch the segments you may have missed and our latest new content as it happens.

Rob McClendon: Well, we live in a world of lifetime learning, and nowhere is that more evident than online. Our Austin Moore takes a look at the growing trend of education for education’s sake, thanks in part to the growth in the online courses with the funny name.

Austin Moore: The idea is straightforward: Offer a class, offer it online, make it available to anyone, and accept everyone. Hence the term massive open online course or MOOC. This is a new idea, first emerging in 2008, largely because technology has only now made it practical. But the idea spread like wildfire throughout educational institutions across the globe and has even given rise to private organizations like edX, Coursera and Udacity. Combined, these three alone offered more than 2,500 courses in January of 2016. Throughout this emerging industry, you’ll find courses offered for credit, some of certifications and others simply for the sake of learning. It is no small way the wild, wild west of postsecondary education.

Gary Sandefur: We are in a period of rapid change in higher education right now. And I think it’s wise for major research universities and teaching universities like Oklahoma State University to investigate some of the different options for delivering the knowledge that we have.

Austin: Gary Sandefur is the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Oklahoma State University, a traditional four-year university which now offers MOOCs.

Sandefur: Part of what we’re trying to do as a land grant university is to be a service to the people of the state and now even more broadly, the people of the world. So a MOOC is a way of making our knowledge and our experience and what we know here available to lots of people throughout the state and throughout the world.

Austin: For their first entry, they turned to agriculture, a strength of OSU academics, asking ag economist Bailey Norwood to design the course.

Bailey Norwood: It’s called “Farm to Fork: A Panoramic View of Agriculture.” And it tries to improve agricultural literacy, describe the science behind modern agriculture and help people appreciate and understand agricultural controversies.

Norwood: I have the actual DNA of Ves Areus here to show you. You can see, this is a really big sheet of paper where all you’ll see are different sequences of four letters.

Austin: This course and the other OSU MOOCs offer three models: OSU students can take the course for credit, anyone can take the course for free, with no credit, but the public can also enroll for correspondence credit.

Norwood: You could be in high school and earn credit. You could be in a nursing home and earn credit. As long as you have an Internet hookup, there are no prerequisites at all. You know, what you see, you are treated exactly like the students here on campus are when they are taking the course.

Sandefur: We have to stay in the game. We have to be working with online education, with MOOCs. We need to be looking at other models, which we are, like with blended classrooms, where you have a lot of the material online, but then you also use the classroom as kind of this active learning experience. So these are all different models that we all need to be exploring and dealing with, and then we will see in the end which ones work out to be affective. Some of them may become a permanent part of higher education, and others may disappear eventually. We just have to be involved in the experimentation.

Austin: Giving a sense of adventure to education and making its online future feel massive and wide open.

Rob: Now, if there is a downside to the whole model of online classes, it may be human nature. Completion rates for MOOCs typically fall between 30 and 40 percent, a fact that is attributed to that without the typical classroom structure, it’s awfully easy not to show up for class.

Female Announcer: Want to see more stories like this? All our segments are streaming on our YouTube channel at OklahomaHorizonTV.

Rob McClendon: Next time on “Oklahoma Horizon,” we look at how skills training could break the cycle of crime and punishment before it ever begins.

We’re trying to change these guys’ lives. We’re trying to make them better men, prepare them for real world situations, prepare them to get a job, prepare them to re-enter society and be productive.

Reducing incarceration with a good job, on Oklahoma’s show for the heartland, “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Rob McClendon: Well, thanks for including us as a part of your day. I’m Rob McClendon. Hope to see you back here next week.