Innovation usually inspires some measure of misunderstanding, and the growing phenomenon of massively open online courses is no different. One misconception is that MOOC creators are out to replace teachers and schools. "MOOCs are not intended to do that," confirms Howard Lurie, vice president for external affairs at edX in Cambridge, MA. "We are looking to enhance teaching and learning."
In his role with edX, a not-for-profit initiative created by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Lurie works with partners around the world in what he calls an ongoing grand experiment. Part of that experiment may ultimately include offering portions of MOOCs to augment the high school advanced placement (AP) curriculum.
"With edX, we could perhaps help to bring about a new breed of AP courses," says Lurie, a former AP Humanities teacher. "That new breed would be in the form of a very significant and enhanced platform…and it all leads to ways in which we can use blended models to teach AP courses." Other companies are jumping on the idea of MOOC-enhanced AP classes too: Tablet-maker Amplify recently announced that it will offer a free, two-semester AP Computer Science MOOC with in-school support.
Lurie believes the hybrid approach is one way to enhance knowledge and branch out from the lecture-based instruction that can grow stale, even when it comes from the best teachers.
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Representatives from two Lehigh and three Bucks County school districts are meeting this week to develop and share methods for using new technology in the classroom. The Bucks Lehigh EduSummit 2013 began today and runs through Wednesday at Southern Lehigh High School in Upper Saucon Township, organizers said.
"With collaboration being at the center of 21st-century teaching and learning, we are excited to provide an opportunity for educators in the Bucks and Lehigh County area to come together to share resources and ideas to enhance their classrooms," Southern Lehigh director of technology and elementary education Ken Jordan said.
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Pennsylvania’s Quakertown Community School District, Cajon Valley Union School District in California, and Arizona’s Dysart Unified School District are successfully using digital learning to improve teaching and learning, as highlighted in a series of video profiles conducted by the Alliance for Excellent Education. This series of groundbreaking interactive profiles demonstrates the effectiveness of the Alliance’s Project 24, which is an initiative that provides free resources to help school district leaders strategically plan for the effective use of technology in their efforts to improve teaching and learning and achieve higher college- and career-ready standards.
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In January, I wrote a piece about the Natick, Mass., public school district’s Digital Conversion, a program designed to transform and reshape how technology is used to improve its education system. For Natick, that meant issuing district-owned MacBooks to all of its students, grades 8-12, enabling a 1:1 blended teaching and learning environment with the goal of achieving college and career readiness for its students.
Nearly a year after Natick’s program was launched, the district is currently fielding rigorous, objective measures of its progress. In the absence of that data, there are no great disasters to report, which some might count as an achievement. But when you have an engaged student body that is doing everything from conversing with peers in Costa Rica through Twitter in a history class, to designing and producing their own online magazines, the result is a population of students developing skills that can easily be transferred into future careers. These are some of the fruits of Natick’s digital conversion so far.
To read more about the challenges on the way, click HERE.
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