This blog is dedicated to the topics of Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education. it is intended as an information source for the college store industry, or anyone interested in how course materials are changing. Suggestions for discussion topics or news stories are welcome.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Current happenings in K-12

This month’s Digital Directions newsletter by Education Week provides a few interesting articles on the current happenings in K-12. One article, discusses a small study known as SMART which is testing the use of Mathematical Markup Language (MathML) for students who have disabilities that interfere with the ability to read print. MathML is a digital language that is often used to display formulas and notations in mathematical software but is not commonly used for creating digital textbooks for K-12. For the study, Prentice Hall digitized one of their math books using MathML. The information was then loaded onto a flash drive along with MathPlayer software to allow the equations to display in Internet Explorer and Read & Write 8 Gold software to add text to speech functionality. With the combined technologies, the flash drive provided students with a digital textbook to speak the words in the book and even highlight the words as they were spoken. The study is now in its second year of testing with improvements being made based on first year observations. The initial findings from the study indicate that students using the digital textbook learned more than those using the printed version. The article also notes that MathML is being considered for addition to the technical specifications of the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS). If approved, publishers would be required to include MathML in digital textbooks in order for schools who receive federal funding to purchase them.

A second article, discusses a recent panel discussion on “disruptive innovation” in K-12 education. The discussion was led by Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School, lead author of, Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. The book is based on a principle which Christensen originally applied to business but one which can also be applied to education. The idea is that new technologies can easily come into the market and evolve to displace the established leaders. The author predicts that this could soon happen in education because children’s need for individual instruction will drive students out of public schools and into customizable online learning programs. While the theory has its critics, the book should be an interesting read for college store managers. In particular, the book has an entire chapter on how instructional materials (i.e., textbooks) could be replaced through disruptive innovations.

1 comment:

MHorn said...

Thanks for your post! Good observations on some interesting articles indeed. Our book, Disrupting Class, actually paints a bit of a wider picture in scope about disruptive innovations in education. Online learning could disrupt the instructional job in schools, which is a bit of a wider scope than merely talking about disrupting printed textbooks. It allows for a very different learning experience altogether -- which is one reason we called the book Disrupting Class. I won't repeat the full point at length here, but it might be worth your readers taking a look at the book or at some of our articles online.