Blending technology and classroom learning: Jessie Woolley-Wilson at TEDxRainier

Translator: Christopher Phillips
Reviewer: Denise RQ Pivotal moments really can create who we are today and very much shape
who we become tomorrow. When I was a student, I was part of a group that went
to the DC metro area to try to figure out what business could do to try
to improve education for every child. What I remember most
about my first classroom visit in DC was the sound of dripping water
from a dilapidated building. There was this classroom
full of maybe 20, 25 students, and there was one student
sitting at a desk, captivated by the water
dripping from the ceiling. I won’t forget that scene because there wasn’t
much learning going on, but I also won’t forget his eyes. He saw me when I looked at him,
and he knew he deserved better. That was a pivotal moment for me. At that time, I decided not to take
a traditional path from business school and to devote my career,
really my life’s work, to try and figure out a way to make quality education
available to every child, regardless of what language they spoke,
regardless of where they called home, regardless really of their ZIP code. Do you know how important
your ZIP code is to giving you access
to a quality education? Of the 40,000 ZIP codes
in the United States, two outside the Boston area
are considered the most highly educated
ZIP codes in the country. So it seems to me we have a choice. We can load up our minivan
and take all kids to the best neighborhoods with
the best teachers and the best education, or we can figure out a way
to make ZIP code irrelevant to a child’s ability to learn,
to realize their learning potential, and I believe, in doing so,
realize their human potential. I am very, very excited
about the future of learning, despite what you might read
in the paper every day, because I think it rests in
the promise of blended learning. Blended learning – learning that combines the traditional face-to-face
classroom experience, that all of us perhaps grew up with, with new innovative learning technologies that have the power, in my mind,
to democratize learning. So I want to tell you a little story,
I want to talk about three things, three things that I think
are converging now that are going to permanently,
and I think, positively, change education. The first is the economic tsunami
that we’ve all weathered. 26 of 50 states are going to dramatically
decrease their investment in education as the result of what has happened
in the past several years; 26 of 50. And as a result, schools are being
forced to do more with less, while classroom sizes get larger, and while the learning readiness
of the students in that classroom continues to get broader
and broader and broader: broader socioeconomic, broader cultural,
broader language skills. So what is a teacher to do? I want to tell you a really
encouraging story about a teacher. Her name is Wendy Funk,
she’s a teacher in California. She saw, over the past two or three years,
her class size go from 18 to 28 students. In the United States, the average
classroom size is about 25 students now, but that’s up from 16 in 1980. So Wendy looked at her classroom,
and she said, “What am I going to do to make sure that every child gets
what they need when they need it?” What is a teacher to do,
even a great teacher like Wendy? Wendy’s pivotal moment came
when she turned to blended learning. She turned to blended learning
that was supported by an intelligent,
adaptive learning technology that I’ll tell you more about later. So she asked her kids to spend 100 minutes
a week on this adaptive software program and to rotate, part live class with her,
some time on the adaptive program, and the results were nothing
but astounding. In six months, her classroom achieved the equivalent of a full year
of learning; in six months. So with the help
of these adaptive technologies that I’m going to introduce you to, we could actually increase
the velocity of learning. So it doesn’t matter
what a child’s starting point is. It doesn’t matter
what they know when they start. What matters is the journey
and where it takes them. And that brings me
to the second major force that’s changing education
in a positive way. I mentioned it a few minute earlier:
intelligent adaptive learning. How many of you have ordered
something from Amazon or Netflix that you never – more on that later – that you never intended to buy? Because these software programs
that we use get to know us through use. They get to know us through use. And sometimes, they’re right;
oftentimes, they’re right. We’ve brought that kind
of capability to learning so that these adaptive technologies learn
the learner as the learner learns. Sounds funny, but it’s true. They actually learn the learner
as the learner learns. So that they can help
determine what next lesson, what next learning experience
a child should have, based on what they demonstrate
they know, and what they don’t know. So let me share with you
an example that might help. Behind me, you’ll see a virtual
manipulative, a learning tool. This is designed to allow students
to explore a lot of different ways to solve problems. But what is happening in the background,
what’s happening under the hood is that the adaptive engine
is collecting a lot of information as the student plays
what the student thinks is a game. In fact, this engine will collect about
50,000 data points per student per hour. Did they hesitate
when they picked up the mouse? Did they get the right answer immediately? All of those data points go into what lesson or what learning experience
that child receives next. So let’s say we have a classroom,
and in there, we have two students: one’s very advanced,
and one is struggling. The adaptive engine asks
the two students to build the number 48. The first student says,
“Well, I know how to do that. I’m going to take 4 groups of 10,
1 group of 8, and I get my number, 48.” Doesn’t hesitate,
doesn’t ask for help, is confident. The second student says, “I’m not
quite sure, but I do know my ones. And I’m going to push over
individually 48 ones.” In a multiple choice environment,
both students are correct, right? They both got the right answer. But you can see
that each of those students demonstrated that they had a different level
of understanding of mathematics. And therefore, where they should progress to next
shouldn’t be the same, it should be different. With the help
of blended learning solutions like intelligent adaptive technologies, students are actually put
in the driver’s seat so that they can literally help
architect their own learning path. So that that first student might be
sent to a subtraction lesson and be asked to build
the number 48, starting from 100, whereas the second student,
who was struggling, might get a lesson in fives and tens so that that student can have
a better opportunity to master what they weren’t able to demonstrate
that they mastered before. But the most important thing here is that both students get
what they need, when they need it. Both students are engaged,
they feel successful. They’re not stigmatized,
they’re not embarrassed. Both students are supported
in an environment that is highly personalized
to their own unique learning needs. This is the promise
of intelligent adaptive learning. It’ll never replace great teachers. But it can support great teaching
as those classrooms explode. That brings me to the third force
that is shaping the future of learning. My husband and I were
in a electronics store recently trying to buy a flat-screen TV
– probably for the Super Bowl – (Laughter) We went in there, and there was a little girl, maybe
three or four years old with her father. And while her father
was engaged with the salesman, she went over to the wall started pressing all the TVs
hanging on the wall. She wasn’t really satisfied,
she went to the next one. Wasn’t really satisfied,
went to the next one. She turned around and said, “Daddy, we can’t buy
our TV here, they’re all broken.” (Laughter) Grace is part
of a new generation of learners. She’s used to having immediate
responsiveness at her own personal touch. She feels in command
of her environment with her touch. And most kids don’t have the opportunity to experience blended learning
in their classroom. And we have to inspire Grace
to new levels of creativity, because the world
that she’s going to inherit, the jobs and industries
that she’s going to encounter, might not even exist yet. So we have to help Grace
learn how to learn and understand the value
of working through persistence. And in this environment
that I was explaining to you, getting the wrong answer
doesn’t mean failure. It’s just the first step to a deeper
understanding of subject matter. So when I think about my career,
and I think about 20 years ago in DC, I oftentimes think about that classroom. I think about that child whose eyes I met, I think about the desk he was sitting in,
and I think that about that drip. And I think about how many other students
in classrooms across the United States are uninspired and perhaps overlooked. But don’t be discouraged, be determined. Because that drip
doesn’t have to be a ticking clock. That drip can just be a cause
of motivation for all of us to make sure that, regardless of ZIP code,
we can bring these blending technologies to every child and help to unlock
the learning potential of every child. Because you know what? When you think
about it, these are our future leaders. These are our future innovators,
our future doers. These kids are our future. So I want to leave you with a quote from
a famous anthropologist, Margaret Mead. It guides me in my work. She said, “if children
do not learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn.” Thank you. (Applause)

1 Comment

  1. Eva Sara

    September 3, 2019 at 2:39 am

    Interesting, but as usual, it is not said how the data on children will be stored, by whom and whether these data will be sold or shared with third parties. The real challenge of technology in the school is ensuring safety and privacy through the online systems and data gathering softwares.

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