Beth Holland

Food for thought…

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To Ensure Success, First Define the Black Box of Innovation

In the readings for my Evaluation course, a concept struck me: when something fails, do you blame the theory or the implementation? I think that in education, great concepts often get abandoned because of poor execution and a lack of understanding about the implementation. Researchers Leviton and Lipsey describe this as not knowing the inner workings of the “black box.”

I first read about the notion of “the black box” in the context of the economics and education last fall. Economic researchers frequently write about inputs and outputs. They examine what goes into the black box of schools in terms of time, money, or resources and then measure what comes out – student test scores, teacher evaluations, etc.  However, economists rarely open that box.


The same thing happens with schools when they look to implement a new program. In their 2012 article, Theoretical Frameworks to Guide School Improvement, authors Evans, Thornton, and Usinger explain that most educational reform efforts occur absent a defined theory of change.  Instead, schools and districts implement new plans or programs without defining why they believe that these change efforts should work; what they hope to achieve; and how they might measure success. In other words, they often take a black box approach.

For my dissertation work, I have to define the theory of treatment for my intervention study so that if something goes wrong, I will know if the problem lies in the theory or the execution of my design. To do this, I have to define the logic behind my assumptions, the causal or correlational relationship between variables, and the literature to support my claims. This latest blog post at least helped me to wrap my head around the concept and the process.

>> Read the article on EdTech Researcher.

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Use Design Thinking to Create an Opportunity to Learn

From a constructivist perspective, learning is based on past experiences (Ertmer & Newby, 1983). So why do we expect educators to incorporate deeper learning and 21st-century skills — areas that few teachers have engaged in personally — without first providing those initial experiences on which to build new knowledge and understanding?

Last week at the EdTechTeacher Innovation Summit in San Diego, I had the opportunity to facilitate some hands-on, Design Thinking activities for teachers. Each one afforded participants with an experience on which they could build new understanding of what it “feels” like to be a student in a non-traditional classroom. Whether through littleBitsBreakoutEDU, or the Extraordinaires, educators engaged in the design thinking process so that they could formulate an idea of what it might look like in their classroom.

Whether the goal is design thinking, project based learning, deeper learning, 21st-century skills, or any other new form of instruction, what may be most critical is ensuring that all teachers and administrators can have that initial experience on which to base new knowledge.  If the goal is to transform education, then everyone needs an opportunity to learn.

>> Read the full article on EdTech Researcher.

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The Unintended Consequences of Innovation

I wrestled with this one for quite some time. According to diffusion scholar and author, Everett Rogers, innovations possess both intended and unintended consequences – some positive and some detrimental.  So what does it mean for students growing up in an age of rapid innovation?

By helping students develop empathy, it may be possible to recognize and prevent some of those negative, unintended consequences.

>> You can read my full article on EdTech Researcher.

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Make Writing Classes Larger and Other Heresies of Connected Courses – From Justin Reich

I co-author the EdTech Researcher blog with my colleague. Justin Reich. He just posted this article about how Kim Jaxon makes epic learning experiences for 100 freshman composition students using a Connected Courses infrastructure.

This post originally appeared on EdTech Researcher

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3 Critical Competencies for the Future – Preparing Students to Thrive in 2020

For our students to thrive in 2020, they will need to develop the critical competencies of media literacy, computational thinking, and empathy.

This post originally appeared on EdTech Researcher