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StaffRobert HeinyDecisive Schools 2010: Q & A Notes

Decisive Schools 2010: Q & A Notes

Decisive Schools 2010: Q & A Notes

Recorded* at Illinois State Teachers Assembly, Peoria, IL

Panel: Teacher Preparation for Near Future Education

Moderator: Donna Pahl Wilkinson

Date: September 5, 2006


Decisive Schools 2010 exist as a concept drawn from professional literature and assembled like a puzzle. This Q & A is for people who have come to wonder and ask this question: “How and why would someone assemble available technologies in order to accelerate student learning?”

Curious students, educators, as well as members of that mythical “educated public” have asked themselves such questions. Many answers come from common knowledge among people familiar with 20th century schooling that addresses behavior patterns, behavior changes, and learning theories derived from experimental empirical behavior studies.

This is an invitation to an intellectual world I consider profoundly exciting, relevant, and timely. Schooling has been an on-going experiment throughout recorded history. Few fixed rules exist to conduct a school aside from conventions and philosophy. Schooling includes a large arena with room for more experiments.
Perhaps someone will create and operate a Decisive School and test empirically the following questions and answers.

Panelists Questions and Pahl-Wilkinson Answers

Q: What is a Decisive School 2010?

A: A Decisive School reduces risks by 2010 of all students exceeding state mandated minimum academic standards during each academic year.

Students who exceed minimum standards may also accelerate their learning beyond the highest expectations for their ages through Decisive Schools.

These schools use decision theory to operate evolving real time individualized databases of student responses to lessons on Tablet and other mobile PCs. Teachers use these data to adjust next lessons in order to increase student learning rates promptly and dramarically.

Q: Does that mean Decisive Schools offer remedial programs?

A: They support any student learning as rapidly as students choose about basic principles used in the traditional seven liberal arts, the conventional core of Pre-K20 schools. Liberal arts give priority to knowledge and intellectual skills over their application. In contemporary terms, liberal arts include grammar (language), logic, speech (rhetoric), mathematics, music, history, and science. Each has commonly accepted rules of performance. Decisive Schools assist students to master these rules rapidly.

Q: Where can I see a Decisive School?

A: The NESI (New Era School Initiative) Charter School in Normal (formerly Normsville), California, a fictitious community in the San Joaquin Valley. A Decisive School is a concept of what can exist by 2010. The concept gives focus to ways educators can organize existing instructional protocols, electronic hardware such as Tablet PCs, Ultra-Mobile PCs, and software to accelerate student learning.

Q: What does the name Decisive School mean? It appears to denigrate other schools.

A: The name means that educators use electronic databases organized to identify certainties and risks of students meeting learning criteria for each lesson. These data augment professional judgments. Decisive Schools evolve from using decades of tangible and intangible advancing technologies in schools and training settings.

Q: What are tangible and intangible advancing technologies?

A: Tangible advancing technologies include computer servers, mobile PCs and related software. Intangible advancing technologies are intellectual skills. They consist of systems of technical procedures for accelerating learning, for example using a decision tree to select from alternative consequences to a lesson item; analyzing an instructional task; and increasing the chances of a learner’s response occurring again.

Q: Why do you think this is not Orwellian? It sounds so manipulative.

A: Teachers do their best to help students learn assigned lessons. Decisive Schools follow designs that help teachers manage their instruction more efficiently. These designs allow the collection of data about instruction and student responses. Teachers use these data to adjust lessons and instruction, so that students accelerate learning.

Advancing intellectual and electronic technologies provide tools for data collection and calculation of the likelihood of consequences of instruction for individuals and classes. These technologies reduce some of the educated guessing that even the most experienced and sophisticated teachers use to plan and conduct lessons.

Q: What do you mean teachers make educated guesses in planning and conducting lessons? Don’t they know what to do?

A: No teacher knows everything about any lesson or about learning patterns of any student or of any classroom of students. Sometimes subtleties of lesson content or of instructional presentation matter. Decisive School databases identify likely responses individuals and classrooms of students will give to each lesson. These data provide a numerical level of confidence for a teacher to have before and after a part or whole lesson.

Q: If Decisive Schools are so great, why don’t they already exist? Why hasn’t someone formed them earlier?

A: Five reasons exist to allow Decisive Schools now. In short, the social and technical context exists for educators to assemble schools that use databases to supplement routine judgments by educators.

First, mobile PCs such as Tablets and Ultra-Mobile PCs make it possible to collect and analyze individual student responses easier and more efficiently than previous pencil and paper ways. This costs less than comparable enterprise level analyses school districts seek.

Second, more educators use mobile PCs in classrooms than previously. Likely, hundreds of billions, if not more, of learning transactions have occurred with them across the globe. They provide an experience base for creating a Decisive School.

Third, students know and adapt readily to using mobile PCs in schools. They also provide an experience base for forming a Decisive School.

Fourth, enough components of a Decisive School exist with an intellectual and empirical base to permit confidence in assembling a school program that uses decision theory on mobile PCs to organize instruction, at least in part.

Fifth, taxpayers and other education supporters accept experimenting with advancing technologies in schools. Many recognize that students can benefit more from different schooling than increasing funds for conventional schooling.

Q: What pieces of a Decisive School exist?

A: Several programs exist in practice that use databases to supplement routine judgments by educators. They were developed and tested empirically in instructional settings during the past four decades.

Here’s a sample: Direct Instruction (S. Engelmann, Direct Learning (L.C. Heiny), Precision Teaching (O. Lindsley), Contingency Management (B.F. Skinner), Try Another Way (M. Gold), and Two-Choice Visual Discrimination Learning (D. Zeaman & B. House).
Also, descriptions exist in professional literature of uses of statistics, such as with pinball machines as a metaphor for yielding life chances (including student learning in schools), and Walden II as a story about stimulus-response (contingency) management to operate a social group such as a school class of learners.

Q: Where do these databases come from? They sound expensive. What are they?

A: Databases used in Decisive Schools consist of counts of each student’s responses to lessons. They examine learning transactions, detailed item by item analysis of routine student responses to daily lessons than a traditionally prepared Stanford-Binet psychometrist reports.

They include such details as the number of attempts a student gets correct to similar questions, the quality of these questions, and the length of time to respond to similar questions as well as converting these data into probabilities of alternative consequences for students to a teacher’s lessons.

Tablet PCs and other mobile PCs collect these counts. Software organizes counts into probabilities of each student’s or classes’ responses. Teachers choose which alternative responses they want and arrange instruction to yield those results.

Q: Do these databases exist? Does any school use them? What’s the cost?

A: These databases do not exist as electronic tools for mobile devices in a school. A team could assemble in 150 business work hours a working proof-of-concept prototype using aLEAP (a Learning Efficiency Analysis Paradigm), to assess learning with a Tablet PC to collect data for the database.

A company would assemble a first team in cooperation with a local school agency. Team membership would include a database system developer, a server software developer, a mobile PC software developer, an educator familiar with Tablet PCs and Ultra-Mobile PCs as instruction tools, a classically prepared educational psychometrist, a decision theory and management specialist, a statistician specializing in probabilities of small events, a curriculum development specialist, and a behavioral analyst familiar with task analysis for effective and efficient learning. An observer would record discussions and would report outcomes in whatever media seemed most useful for next steps in developing one or more databases for accelerating learning.

Personnel would cost $15 – 20,000, unless companies would donate technical time, perhaps in exchange for partial rights. Probably an investor would underwrite the venture with funding provided for evolving development stages. Elapsed time for an Alpha version of a database would be 12 months, and 18 months for a Beta version. Both will be versions of a school installation proof of concept.

Q: Does a development team exist?

A: Not that I know about for a Decisive School.

Q: How much must a licensed educator change to teach in a Decisive School?

A: Teachers who use behavioral sciences to organize lessons and teachers who adapt instruction on-the-fly to assist individual students will adjust to Decisive School operations without shifting paradigms. All teachers would need to learn to use database information. Some shift would occur in vocabulary. For example, you’ll hear and read reference to accelerating learning, learning rates, data centric lesson plans, decision management, alternative consequences, and other parts of using the “If …, then …” proposition for organizing learning.

Q: Why would I want to work with numbers from some database? I’m a teacher, a people person. I want to work with people, not machines or numbers.

A: Teachers work with tools like pencils, paper, printed books, and projectors in order to make their work with people more effective and efficient. Teachers can also learn to use mobile PCs, servers, and numbers so that students accelerate their learning.

In other words, these tools assist teachers accomplish what they intend with students. After they become proficient with tools, they don’t have to use them, if decision management and databased information doesn’t accomplish more than without these tools for less cost.

Q: Can a single teacher use decision theory without a Decisive School or another kind of support?

A: Yes, now by calculating manually the likelihood of students responding as wanted. Probably by 2010, mobile PC software developers will offer such analyses built into selected academic packages or will offer supplemental applications. In any of these conditions, individuals may use aspects of decision trees to accelerate learning.

Q: What’s different about Decisive Schools from the schools with advancing technologies, especially those already using mobile PCs, total school strategies, and enterprise software packages?

A: Decisive Schools give priority to accelerating student learning. This priority includes evolving databases created in part with mobile PCs that students use. In Decisive Schools, each activity must empirically demonstrate that it directly contributes to accelerating learning of individuals and of aggregates of students.

Q: What grade levels and subjects would you start with?

A: Probably with mathematics, reading, and science in primary grades. A sufficient number of mobile PC software packages exists to test the Decisive Schools concept in reality. More are under development.

Q: Does anyone want a Decisive School?

A: Probably. Decisive Schools offer accelerated learning and lower risks of failure. Many educators and community members want to see those results from schools.

Let’s identify people interested in creating a Decisive School. Now, people refer to vague concepts included in Decisive Schools, and to partial programs in existing schools or in literature about earlier deployments.

Q: Why should a school rely on a business to design Decisive School databases? Can’t educators develop databases for schools?

A: Schools assist students to learn specific content. That’s their specialty. Businesses develop tools for educators and students to use to meet these goals. Product and tool development as well as distribution are business specialties.

Q: What questions have I not asked that I should ask about Decisive Schools?

A: One question is, “What will happen if no one develops a school that uses decision theory with advanced mobile technologies to assist teachers arrange instruction?”

An answer, if no one does, then the concept of Decisive Schools remains a reference against which other school performances can be compared. Probably, someone will develop a Decisive School or something similar enough to test the value of formalizing decision theory and management to supplement teacher professional judgment.

*Note 1: This fictitious Q & A and venue are products of my imagination, except for the names of the city and state, and the literature references noted in this text. I use fiction to explain further the concept of Decisive Schools, and to anticipate likely questions among people who discuss using decision theory and management to accelerate learning. Bob Heiny

Originally posted on The Tablet PC Education Blog, September 07, 2006, 6:29 AM. (Retrieved and edited May 10, 2010.) http://www.robertheiny.com/2006/09/decisive-schools-2010-q-notes.html

Robert Heiny
Robert Heinyhttp://www.robertheiny.com
Robert W. Heiny, Ph.D. is a retired professor, social scientist, and business partner with previous academic appointments as a public school classroom teacher, senior faculty, or senior research member, and administrator. Appointments included at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Peabody College and the Kennedy Center now of Vanderbilt University; and Brandeis University. Dr. Heiny also served as Director of the Montana Center on Disabilities. His peer reviewed contributions to education include publication in The Encyclopedia of Education (1971), and in professional journals and conferences. He served s an expert reviewer of proposals to USOE, and on a team that wrote plans for 12 state-wide and multistate special education and preschools programs. He currently writes user guides for educators and learners as well as columns for TuxReports.com.

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