Repeal of Net Neutrality and Possible Impact on the Educational Field

Government Oversight Over the Internet and Net Neutrality

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 opened the door for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s oversight of the Internet through the inclusion of the term Internet under the definition for incidental interlata services (47 USCS § 271 g, d, 2). Even though one of the purposes of the Telecommunications Act was “to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation” (47 USCS § 230 b, 2), the Act established a precedent for the government to develop rules and regulations over the Internet. The FCC later added additional clarity to its role when it approved new rules to regulate broadband internet as a public utility “to ensure that no content is blocked and that the Internet is not divided into pay-to-play fast lanes for Internet and media companies that can afford it and slow lanes for everyone else” (Ruiz & Lohr, 2015). This concept used to describe a free Internet is known as “network neutrality”, or more commonly referred to as “net neutrality”, is credited Tim Wu who was an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Virginia Law School at the time (Fung, 2015; Wu 2002; Wu, 2003).

Repeal of Net Neutrality and Possible Impact on the Educational Field

Unfortunately, these regulations were short-lived. The FCC recently repealed the net neutrality rules taking effect on June 11, 2018 creating the potential for companies to favor select Internet traffic over others by increasing or decreasing speed and access to various web sites and services (Reardon, 2018). While the education field has not been affected by the change in these regulations yet, this could potentially impact nearly every school district’s and university’s services from operations to teaching and learning. This is particularly relevant today given the near ubiquitous adoption of Internet technologies to increase productivity in nearly every aspect in classrooms, schools, and colleges (U.S. Department of Education, n.d.).

Higher Costs

One area where the repeal of neutrality is that costs could increase for educational resources and services. Internet service providers and larger corporations that manage different components of the internet could charge more or conversely throttle speed to select online curricular resources. Curriculum supervisors would need to consider additional costs and potential surcharges to prioritize access to Internet-based resources in schools. Funds may also be needed to prioritize bandwidth to access other external resources, particularly relevant as more school districts and universities move to cloud computing services (Bock, 2013; Zimmerman, 2018). Similarly, districts and universities may need to allocate additional funds to pay for a prioritized internet traffic for stakeholders like parents to access web sites off campus like their homepages and learning management systems.

Limited Selection of Ed Tech Service Providers

The repeal of net neutrality could also negatively impact the number of competitors developing and offering educational solutions. Currently, the free internet permits small educational technology start-ups equal access to schools and universities as larger corporations and companies. This repeal could drive ongoing costs too high for these new start-ups to remain competitive, possibly limiting the diversity and innovation in the field.

References

Gamification in the K-12 setting

Have you ever played Solitaire or Minesweeper on your computer? Like many early PC users, I’ve played each of these games many times beat the game to hear the fulfilling sound of the shuffling cards or clear a level without detonating any mines. Interestingly, the digital versions of these games “weren’t actually designed for entertainment.” Rather, the PC version of Solitaire was bundled with Microsoft OS for “teaching mouse-fluency by stealth” and Minesweeper to “to make the idea of left and right clicking second nature for Windows users, and to foster speed and precision in mouse movement” (Hunt, 2015).

Assisting users familiarize themselves with key computing skills in a game-based environment exemplifies gamification. In its most basic form, gamification “is about applying game-design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging” (Swann, 2012). Rather than introducing personal computer novices to a point-and-click or drag-and-drop tutorial, Microsoft bundled these applications to make the learning fun.

In K-12 education, teachers have been employing aspects of gamification in their classes for years. In many cases, teachers use games like Jeopardy or Family Feud style competitions to review topics. Teachers have also utilized various gamified tools to assist with classroom management from the simple behavioral star chart to newer applications like ClassDojo.com and ClassCraft.com which provide similar rewards and consequences for positive and negative classroom behavior. These applications also include enhanced features like a parental communication component, longitudinal data tracking and the ability to transcend behavioral management to other aspects of the class such as posting student work.

However, when gamification is utilized to assist with behavior modification, ”Kevin Werbach, Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics who co-wrote a book on gamification called, For the Win …  cautions that like any management tool, it can be ‘oversold or abused’ and “needs to be done thoughtfully to have a good chance of success” (Forbes, 2014). In the examples above, these classroom management tools should not be overly used and should be introduced in the same fashion as another learning tool in the classroom, providing students with the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the platform and how it works.

There is tremendous potential in applying gamification to assist students achieve learning outcomes beyond the above two examples of subject review and classroom management. For instance, the U.S. Department of Education in their 2017 National Education Technology plan describes several benefits of digital games such that it “allow students to try out varied responses and roles and gauge the outcomes without fear of negative consequences” and they “increase empathy, self-awareness, emotional regulation, social awareness, cooperation, and problem solving.”

Furthermore, outside of the classroom, video games have never been more popular, and according to Trevor Nath reporting for Nasdaq (2016), the video game industry now earns more revenue that the movie or music industries. Gamers can play for hours or days at end performing menial tasks often referred to as grinding to achieve a virtual achievement that will play a role to unlock a later success. There is much to be learned from video game designers in how they design and create these immersive environments. For instance, an article published in learning-theories.com identified that game designers incorporate the following key elements when designing successful games: “Narrative, Immediate feedback, Fun, ‘Scaffolded learning’ with challenges that increase, Mastery …, Progress indicators …, Social connection, [and] Player control” (2017).

Unfortunately, K-12 education does not have even a fraction of the research and development budget accessible to a video company. Therefore, the path to the future is to create private public partnerships through teaming up educators, learning theorists, and video game designers to help create immersive and compelling digital learning experiences.

References

 

Implications of Copyright Law in Education

Introduction

As teachers, we are provided with a curriculum, scope and sequence and resources to develop unit plans, lessons and activities to help students develop mastery of a particular set of grade-level standards. Most educators augment and enhance their lessons using external resources. However, understanding what can be used, how it can used, and what can be shared in and outside the confines of the four walls of the classroom is not always a straightforward process. Understandably, “many teachers have become fearful of using materials they did not create themselves” (Robinson, Brown, & Green, p. 78). It is therefore imperative that we equip educators with clear guidance how copyright law applies to schools and include similar professional development in every preservice education program.

Highlights

Copyright law was created to protect the rights of the original author of a work and its United States origin are in the in the Constitution authorizing the government “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and Inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries” (U.S. Const. art. I, 8, § 8.). Two years later in May 1790, Congress enacted the first federal copyright law … and the first work was registered within two weeks (U.S. Copyright Office, n.d.). However, one could argue that the history of copyright law originated with Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in the late fifteenth century greatly increasing the ease and speed to mass reproduce original work (ARL, n.d.).

Most original work including work even work that has not been published is protected under copyright law (“What Does Copyright Protect?”, n.d.). There are however several exceptions including “any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery” (U.S. Code title 17, 1 § 102b). Additionally, copyright protection expires after a specific amount of time enabling the work to enter the public domain. Originally, the term of expiration lasted only 28 years which was later doubled by the mid-20th century (Lee, 2015). This has since been greatly extended due to the lobbying efforts from the music and motion picture industry most famously by Disney in an effort to protect the rights of Mickey Mouse (Schlackman, 2017).

The fair use doctrine to the copyright act and the Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act have both been created to provide greater flexibility for limited use of copyright material, particularly in education. Fair use guidelines permit educators to “use of portions of copyrighted materials for purposes of classroom instruction that are finite in duration” (Robinson, Brown, & Green, pp. 88). The TEACH act provides additional clarity for the use of digital copyright materials (Crews, n.d.).

Issues

The rise of high-profile copyright litigation cases (Baskin, 2015; Holpuch, 2016) and the explosion of “technology makes it easier than ever to reproduce print, audio, video, and electronic materials” (Simpson, 2001/2012). Many teachers avoid using these materials “for fear of violating copyright”, while others misunderstand fair use believing it provides “complete protection from prosecution” (Robinson, Brown, & Green, pp. 85). To help university professors, the California State University Long Branch library created an online research guide for copyright and fair use with 27 unique scenarios to help professors develop a practical understanding for how to use the fair use doctrine (“Research Guides: Copyright…”, n.d.). School districts, educational stakeholder organizations, and the U.S. Copyright Office should follow suite and develop clear and simple guidance with examples so educators can be informed and use without fear the myriad of resources available today.

References

To Filter Or Not To Filter

“As useful as it undeniably is, the web is also riddled with inappropriate and undesirable content” (Robinson, Brown, & Green, 2010). To manage access to this content, Congress passed the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in 2000 that “specifically requires schools and libraries to block or filter Internet access to pictures and material that are ‘obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors’ on computers that are used by students under 17 years of age” (Anderson, 2016). Most schools followed suit by providing filtered access to the Internet to meet this requirement.

However, the biggest weakness of this legislation is the term obscene and what might be harmful to a minor is entirely subjective. For example, the 1964 Caldecott award-winning children’s story Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendack “was banned because adults found it problematic that Max was punished by being sent to bed without dinner, and … bristled at the book’s supernatural themes” (“17 of America’s most surprising banned books”, 2017). Similarly, popular Dr. Seuss books including The Lorax was “banned in California in 1989 because it portrayed loggers as environmentally unfriendly” (Bonazzo, 2017) and even today the new movie Goodbye Christopher Robin featuring Winnie the Pooh has been blocked in China, although “no reason given” (Meixler, 2018). Greater clarity with clear examples and limitations should be included in a revised legislation to limit individual discretion for what students under the age of 17 should be able to access.

An additional aspect of this legislation frequently misunderstood is that “websites don’t have to be blocked for teachers” (Gonzalez, 2011), or for that matter anyone above the age of 16. While I am not advocating to remove the filter entirely, adults and educators should have restrictions limited to only the most obscene content in what they can access over the school district’s internet.

Finally, another aspect of this legislation frequently ignored is that it only applies to schools that receive federal funding. Schools that do not receive federal funds are not required to follow this requirement and can opt for an extremely progressive filtering policy by not having one at all. While I believe younger grade students should have access to a curated internet since they may lack the skills and knowledge to determine site validity and inappropriate content, most student in the upper grades already have access to an unfiltered internet at home or on their phones. Rather than filtering upper grade students, school district should enact responsible use policies that instruct students what is and is not permissible as well as the consequences, using infractions as teachable moments. Just like the child who engorges himself on candy or food when restricted at home, this will better prepare them with the digital citizenship skills later in life rather than withholding access entirely.

References

17 of America’s most surprising banned books. (2017, September 22). Retrieved August 6, 2018.

Anderson, M. D. (2016, April 26). The Problem With Filtering Kids’ Internet Access at School. Retrieved August 6, 2018.

Bonazzo, J. (2017, September 29). Melania Trump’s Fight Over Dr. Seuss Shows Why We Need Banned Books Week. Retrieved August 6, 2018.

Gonzalez, L. (2011, September 20). Dispelling Myths About Blocked Websites in Schools. Retrieved August 6, 2018.

Meixler, E. (2018, August 6). China Blocks New Winnie-the-Pooh Film ‘Christopher Robin’. Retrieved August 6, 2018.

Robinson, L., Brown, A., & Green, T. D. (2010). Chapter 2: Inappropriate Content. In Robinson, L., Brown, A., & Green, T. D. Security vs. access: Balancing safety and productivity in the digital school. Washington, D.C.: Wiley-ISTE.

The Potential of Big Data in K12 Education

Great teachers know their students. They know their strengths and weaknesses, their likes and dislikes, their learning styles, and information about their family and friends. Prior to computing systems, access to this information was limited to what each teacher could gather and remember among a class of 20-25 in younger grades or over 100 students in a high school. “Having a data and information management strategy in place in IT is no longer just a luxury, but quickly becoming a necessity” (Kelly, 2018). In K12, the advent of student information systems assists educators with access to interconnected student databases containing information from simple parental contact data to logs and information inputted by attendance, guidance counselors, and other teachers to help gain better insight into the students’ lives beyond their classroom.

Bringing this approach to the classroom level to create easier access to meaningful and actionable large student learning outcome data sets, commonly referred to as big data, has tremendous potential in education. Big data is “a term that first appeared around 2000, which refers to data sets that are so large and complex that processing them by conventional data processing applications isn’t possible” (Strauss, 2016). Data warehouses and computerized systems that employ artificial intelligence can connect formative and summative assessment data with adaptive learning platform results linked to common. While these platforms are still in their infancy and have not been without controversy (Taylor, 2015), (Gootman, 2008), however they hold incredible potential to help educators know their students better than was previously possible.

References

Gootman, E. (2008, October 23). As Schools Face Cuts, Delays on Data System Bring More Frustration. Retrieved August 1, 2018.

Kelly, R. (2018, January 11). 7 Ed Tech Trends to Watch in 2018. Retrieved August 1, 2018.

Strauss, V. (2016, May 09). ‘Big data’ was supposed to fix education. It didn’t. It’s time for ‘small data.’ Retrieved August 1, 2018.

Without Risk th…

Without Risk there is no Reward

There is a great article in today’s Los Angeles Daily News entitled Don’t let fears stop necessary technology reform in L.A. schools: Guest commentary by Frederick M. Hess, Director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute and John E. Deasy, Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Hess and Deasy counter the negative press surrounding the recent iPad roll-out by describing the potential of leveraging technology to provide greater and improved opportunities for teaching and learning. They write that “it creates new opportunities for students to learn and grow; these opportunities should not be driven by community politics, grand promises or state procurement deadlines, but by helping students learn and teachers teach.”

However change is a messy process. Technological innovations don’t happen overnight. The Wright brothers began their experimentation with flight in 1896 and were not successful until 1902, no doubt after many many failed attempts. Thomas Edison had “1,093 patents for different inventions“, however many failed to see the light of day. There are many, many examples in nearly every industry, but we know in hindsight how technology has had a transformative effect.

I am not advocating to enter foolheartedly without sufficient planning for a 1:1 roll-out. To the contrary, we must develop clear expectations, identify, measure, and reflect on frequent benchmarks, and what I have not seen done enough, apply practices developed by change process sociologists and experts. When done with sufficient planning and visionary leadership, we can avoid simply layering technology upon existing classroom practices and achieve the true transformative potential of technology.

In summary, schools and districts need to adopt a change process theory model by treating the pedagogical shift to fully leverage a 1:1 environment to empower the learner to move beyond digitized worksheets and $1,000 pencils. However as with any innovation, leaders and stakeholders must also acknowledge a willingness to embrace some level of ‘mess’. We must attempt to plan for the 99% of what can/will happen and acknowledge that there will be unknowns along the way. Without risk there is no reward.

As Hess and Deasy state, this “should not hold students back from a 21st century learning experience”, and I couldn’t agree more.

The most succes…

The most successful students are those who feel real “ownership” of their education

Thomas Friedman in his Op Ed post in the New York Times Can’t We Do Better? summarizes the results from “the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which compare how well 15-year-olds in 65 cities and countries can apply math, science and reading skills to solve real-world problems” as “the most successful students are those who feel real ‘ownership‘ of their education. In all the best performing school systems, said Schleicher, ‘students feel they personally can make a difference in their own outcomes and that education will make a difference for their future.'”

Alan November has been asking for years, Who owns the Learning?, and the results of this assessment further confirm that this essential question is right on target.

So to take this to the next step, we as educators and educational leaders must continue to reflect on what we can do to empower students, teachers, and schools to own their learning. This is our challenge, and with access to a global network of subjects, resources, and people, we need to leverage technology to tap into students’ interests, make assignments more authentic, and use tools to create more powerful teaching and learning experiences.

Avoiding the Post-Conference “Cinderella after the Ball” Blues

NY/NJ Google App SummitI just left the NY/NJ Google Apps Summit and had a very interesting conversation with Samantha Morra and a few of our Passaic City Public Schools Technology Coordinators about how it sometimes feels like how Cinderella must have felt the day after attending her Ball when returning to work and school the day after attending an event like this.

Things go back to normal and high-level conversations and discussions about educational best-practices take a back-seat to replacing ink and toner, resetting email passwords, and helping with PowerTeacher and Gradebook.  While each of these requests are important and must be answered, that “next day after the ball” feeling does not have to happen, at least not entirely. To keep the positive vibes going, I have found collaborating with colleagues to implement the concepts from the conference as the best way to keep the ball moving, and I have the following three concrete recommendations:

1. Get together with other teachers, coaches, or administrators frequently, make a plan, and execute. To further this, I have learned based on the experience of our own Technology Coordinators in Passaic at the middle and high school that working in isolation as our PreK-6 coaches do limits our effectiveness. As a result, next year I am going to arrange for Elementary Tech Coordinators to work in groups at a few locations a minimum of one (1) day per week to collaborate, plan, submit the post-classroom observation forms, etc. Consider this a ‘modified’ Google 20% time.

2. Continue to develop your Personalized PLN’s (or PPLN as we in Passaic have named it) with conversations on Twitter and other social media. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned this year by following and interacting with educators online.

3. Put your thoughts down and publish! One of our high school Technology Coordinators, Mary Howard, just this weekend created her own personal WordPress blog, published her first entry on “Flattery“, announced it to the world on Twitter, and started a new Twitter chat at #celebrateED. This is in addition to #Techpass Corner Blog documenting our 1to1 journey managed by own LMS and PHS Tech Coordinators featuring a great recent entry by Michael Grant sharing what we are doing.

I too could do more to model this and launched this blog directly as a result to put my thoughts down on ‘paper’.

Finally, to combat the post-conference “Cinderella after the Ball” Blues, three of my take-homes are to continue to collaborate online and in-person with many of the educators who I both follow and interact with on Twitter, many of whom I met for the first-time in person and connect with Joel Handler and the folks at the Hillsborough Public Schools, my alma mater, who are doing some amazing things with their 1:1 Chromebook initiative, and of course work with our amazing @PassaicSchools team!

Thanks and keep that “Cinderella AT the Ball” feeling going!