Jul 192012

Education Reform: The Difference Between Improvement and Innovation

Education Reform: By Tom Vander Ark on July 18, 2012

Improvement is doing things better. Innovation is doing things differently. Well-deployed technology enables both. Two bloggers missed these important distinctions this week.

In a very strange post Sunday, Jay Mathews suggested that neither improvement nor innovation were really possible. He said we just needed more teachers. But Mathews knows that we tried that “add more people” strategy and it didn’t add much benefit. He made the wild claim that technology over the last twenty years has been an attempt to “find some cheaper substitute for teachers.” He suggested schools “bought new technologies to save money.” That is just not the case at all. In fact, we’ve doubled real spending on education by adding staff and technology to the school the way we’ve always done it.

education reform



Tom McDonald’s Comments:

education Reform

education reform

education Reform

July 19, 2012

Thanks Tom for a great post

Although I can’t talk to your articles specific initiatives I can talk to what brain based, research proven, learning methodologies bring to both individual learning improvement and individual learning innovation.

Innovation – doing things differently:

There needs to be an educational revolution as well as an educational paradigm shift. The learning research is clear that the ineffective and inefficient one to many teaching system needs to be replaced with the new learning model: ‘ Instructor facilitated, truly personalized learning, over time with instructor facilitated, truly personalized reinforcement over time, in an instructor facilitated, truly personalized blended learning environment over time’

This parallels how individuals learn critical information to fluency/mastery long term and remember it to apply it to new situations

Improvement – Doing things better

I call this effective and efficient individual learning .
long term individual learning = understanding, fluency/mastery, recall, appropriate application, stick/behavior change

I’ve never has a conversation with an educator that wasn’t completely agreeable that one teacher to one student was the ideal learning scenario.

We all know this is not economically feasible.

Enter truly personalized learning technology. Affordable, ~$100 per student per year, scalable one teacher can facilitate up to 200 students, while they learn critical information through truly personalized course plans with truly personalized, spacing, pacing and reinforcement all over time.

Proven individual, advanced learning results:

More Stimulation per Minute of Study
300% Improvement in Retained Learning per Hour of Study
11% less study time, 22% less test time, and 95% higher test scores
Turnkey eLearning application for California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE); Advanced English Learners pass rates up to 78%; Advanced Special Education learners pass rates up to 50%; Advanced Traditional education learners pass rates up to 100%. Endorsed by The California Continuation Education Association (CCEA). Approved by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). Customized, annualized, CAHSEE, Return on Investment (ROI), economic validations, have ranged between 800% and 4,000%+


The truly personalized learning software can include approved content (Math/ELA) , or can be available for individual students to add their critical content of choice for advanced learning (a truly personalized, adaptive learning environment)

This has been available since 2000.

We know concretely that students bring to the table
differing knowledge along with differing abilities to learn (below grade/at risk, traditional, gifted), we know that the traditional one to many teaching system may only connect with ~30% of the students, leaving the other 70% to fend for themselves, and we know that the new learning model accommodates all students and advances individual learning, but we continue with the traditional broke teaching methodology.


We know what works to personalize and advance individual learning and we have the brain based, research driven, market proven, truly personalized learning technology to support it, but we ignore the proven learning research and continue on as is, or implement unproven technologies like computer tablets


Part of the problem is teachers are subject matter experts, not learning experts. They need to be educated on brain based, research proven learning methodologies so they understand the benefits and effectively and efficiently implement proven best practices.

Education is the only arena that I know of that has the flexibility to implement whatever teaching/learning methodology they choose, classroom to classroom and not be accountable for their poor choices (tablets/learning styles/one to many teaching).

We need to follow the research and proven best practices in learning. We obviously are not doing this today, but if we want improvement and innovation this is the proven way to go that we all must understand/embrace and implement

My website (900+ unique and varied posts) supports and documents my positioning above



Tom McDonald, tsm@centurytel.net; 608-788-5144; Skype: tsmw5752

learning management systems, McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLC