the Learning Collective

The learning collective is the go-to resource for k-12 schools and school systems to plan, implement and evaluate blended learning initiatives. We provide rapid, unbiased solutions for charter schools and charter management organizations to use digital learning to meet the common core state standards. Our process draws on the digital learning expertise of our members to help schools innovate and keep costs down.

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About Us

Launched in 2003, The Learning Collective’s clients include Charter Schools Institute of the State University of New York, Chicago Public Schools’ Office of Innovation, Citizens of the World Charter Schools, College Board, E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, Indiana Charter School Board, Inglewood Unified School District, Ketchum, Kingsmead College, Nevada Public Charter School Authority, New Jersey Department of Education, Parent Revolution, Pomona Unified School District, SchoolWorks, Tiger Woods Learning Center, UCLA and others.

Our Team

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Adam Aberman

Founder, CEO

Adam is the CEO and Founder of The Learning Collective with over 20 years experience in education. Adam has been the lead on many of The Learning Collective’s digital learning projects. Adam has evaluated over 75 charter blended and traditional schools, and dozens of proposals for new charter schools, nationally while providing numerous trainings on adopting the Common Core. Previously, Adam was the Director of Global Digital Strategy for Ashoka’s Youth Venture, which helps teams of youth internationally launch socially responsible businesses and organizations. Prior to Ashoka, Adam was the Executive Director and Founder (and currently Board Member Emeritus) of icouldbe.org, the non-profit Internet-based career mentoring program that has served over 25,000 teens and e-mentors nationwide and in Tanzania. Before establishing icouldbe.org, Adam was a Regional Coordinator for the New York City Department of Education. Adam began his career in education as a Spanish bilingual public school teacher in Los Angeles. Adam received a B.A. from Vassar College and a Master’s in Public Policy, with an emphasis on Education, from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. A frequent speaker at conferences, Adam has also won numerous awards including Cause Marketing Silver Halo Award for Best Use of Social Media (2009) and International Computerworld Magazine Honors Finalist Award (2002). Adam and his family are based in Los Angeles.

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Nathaniel Calhoun

 

Nathaniel specializes in designing, managing and evaluating innovative online learning programs. After working as a high school teacher for several years in the Middle East and West Africa, Nathaniel moved to New York and joined icouldbe.org as their Director of Education, authoring their curriculum and working closely with their programmer to improve their instructional design. Nathaniel designed and conducted dozens of trainings at underserved high schools around the United States. From his home base in Dakar, Senegal, Nathaniel currently interfaces directly with numerous Ministries of Education in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nathaniel conducts technology-focused needs assessments of Ministries of Education (or sub-portions thereof) and makes targeted recommendations designed to increase program impact. He specializes in communicating to Ministry level stakeholders about the practical requirements of adapting to new technological initiatives and, at the same time, he is skilled in returning to program sponsors with a clear assessment of Ministry capabilities and areas where programs need modification. While his work includes systemic and management level recommendations for the internal good functioning of Ministries themselves, his priority is strengthening teacher training programs, national curricula and programming for out of school youth. His years in the African classroom and his years helming UNICEF e-learning initiatives throughout Sub-Saharan Africa have prepared him to design materials for the most under-served and under-resourced learners and teachers.

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Joquetta Johnson

 

Joquetta is an award winning library media specialist, national presenter, and educational technology leader. Joquetta’s over 20 years of expertise in digital tools and resources have earned her the title of “The Digital Diva.” As an avid user of mobile learning devices, Joquetta has been using and providing iPad professional development since the release of the first iPad in 2010. As a national presenter for the Bureau of Education and Research, Joquetta leads a full day seminar that provides educators with practical strategies for teaching, learning and creating with iPads and web 2.0 applications. She is the author of Making Best Use of iPads and Other Digital Tools in Your School Library Media Program. Joquetta has been an education consultant for the International Society for Technology Education (ISTE). As a certified Promethean Trainer, Joquetta works with educators and school administrators preparing them to use Interactive Whiteboard Technologies to engage 21st Century learners. Joquetta is also a Google Certified Teacher. Joquetta’s passion and advocacy for Digital Age teaching and learning afforded her the opportunity to be an invited panelist at the 2012 congressional briefing on the Project Tomorrow report: “Personalizing the Classroom Experience – Teachers, Librarians and Administrators Connect the Dots with Digital Learning.” Other recognitions include Recipient, Award in Excellence in Education, Master Teacher of Year Award Nominee, Maryland Technology Academy Fellow and Treasure Mountain Research Retreat Scholar. Joquetta is also an adjunct professor in her home town of Baltimore, Maryland.

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Amber Leage

Amber Leage, M.Ed,. provides strategic planning, program development, and writing services to schools throughout the United States and abroad. She has been an educator for 14 years, serving in various roles including consultant, school leader, IB coordinator, school evaluator, literacy specialist, and teacher. She has served as an educator and instructional leader in inner-city public, charter, bilingual, private, and international schools. Her work includes leading professional development, school reviews, and facilitating school improvement in South America, Central America, and the Middle East. As a school leader her work led to three schools adopting the International Baccalaureate model, establishing a university partnership, and consulted schools in creating school improvement plans, adopting of a new mission, establishing data-informed instructional programs, project-based learning, Reader and Writer’s workshops and the Common Core. She graduated from Santa Clara University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. She has earned a Masters in Educational Leadership from Concordia University, and holds both a teaching credential and administrative credential.

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Amber Oliver

 

Amber Oliver has spent more than 10 years leveraging the power of technology to empower young people with the skills and confidence to be leaders and architects of change. Amber is currently the Director of Partnerships and Operations at the World Wide Workshop, an innovative organization dedicated to harnessing the power of game-design and gaming to transform teaching and learning in underserved communities. In this role, Amber works with forward thinking leaders, students and educators to develop and nurture social game-design learning networks. Prior to the World Wide Workshop, Amber managed UNICEF’s interactive youth rights portal, Voices of Youth, where she pioneered the first HIV-focused educational game in Swahili, and expanded participation to more than 3 million youth in 70+ countries, the majority of whom were girls from Africa, Asia and Latin America. During her 15+ year career, Amber has also worked for the United Nations, The World Bank, and for organizations in Bangladesh, India, Senegal and other developing nations. She holds a master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University and a BA from Brown University. Amber lives and works in New York City.

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY

Our Work

From the Blog

Technology Crash Landing

logo-singularityhub-blue31  Singularity University was started by some of Silicon Valley’s top companies – Google, Cisco and others – to teach individuals, businesses, institutions, investors, NGOs and governments how to leverage the newest technologies to benefit mankind.  Singularity published this article, written by Nathaniel Calhoun and based on an interview with Adam Aberman (both Members of The Learning Collective), on the failure of technology in public schools to build students’ critical thinking skills.

Here’s a quote from the article: “Elementary and middle schools I’ve been in that leverage a lot of technology tend to do an even worse job at promoting students’ higher order thinking abilities. At 100% of the approximately twenty blended schools I have evaluated, there is an acknowledged lack of students’ higher-order and critical thinking skills.”

Some questions raised in the article include:

  • Is there an unscientific bravado behind the assumption that uni-variable learning tools will work well across many classrooms without creating atrophy in other skill areas?
  • Are our educational technologists overlooking social innovations and perhaps weakening our culture of learning?
  • If incorporating tech into our charter schools is further depressing our learning outcomes for older students, how can we change course?
  • By designing tech for core standards that overemphasize narrow learning goals, are we missing an opportunity to design more transformative technologies?

Rethinking Mentoring

mentoring-use Before Adam Aberman founded The Learning Collective, he launched and ran ICouldBe.org, an e-mentoring, career development, and college guidance system for low-income teens.  Teens select their e-mentors, from around the country, with whom to work on 100% web-based projects over the course of an academic year.  ICouldBe.org has served about 20,000 teens with about 10,000 online volunteers.

Learn more in a Vassar Quarterly article featuring Adam and his work.

Writing & Discourse Not Happening at Blended Schools

Detroit   The Learning Collective was recently in Detroit working with four of the city’s traditional public and charter schools.  Several of those schools rely heavily on digital learning programs.

The Learning Collective has noticed that in these and other blended learning schools there are two areas that tend to get left behind: writing and discourse.  Long-form essay writing – with a thesis, supporting paragraphs and based on a rigorous rubric – is often replaced by multiple choice and very-short-answer questions.  Extended academic discourse and debate in classrooms is also hard to find in many blended schools … Students may make short comments in online forums but in-person discussions are often stunted.

We at The Learning Collective are doing what we can to keep critical thinking alive and complex problem solving alive!

20 Takeaways from NACSA and iNACOL Conferences

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 9.27.19 AM The Learning Collective recently attended two annual conferences: NACSA / National Association of Charter School Authorizers and iNACOL / International Association for K-12 Online Learning.  Keeping the list to just 10 proved too difficult so here are the top 20 takeaways from those conferences:

  1. The most important thing teachers have to be able to do in a blended class?  Plan.
  2. Summit Public Schools teaches kids how to be self-directed learners – it’s a skill kids must learn!
  3. To help manage the transition to blended learning in its schools, Summit Public Schools had whiteboards in school hallways for anyone (teacher, student, parent) to write down any problem or ideas they had.
  4. Summit Public Schools sees parent involvement as one of the most important factors in blended and personalized learning.
  5. 24 of 25 teachers that leave their public school in Chicago do so because of their principal.
  6. Alpha Public Schools used lessons learned from its data-driven P.E. program to inform data use in core academic programs.
  7. To pay for converting some of their schools to a blended environment, Aspire Public Schools increased class sizes and estimates a two-year runway to be cost effective.
  8. Committed leadership is the most important factor for an Aspire school to successfully convert to a blended school.
  9. The Washington DC charter school office has 35 staff for 38,000 students.  The state-wide Arizona charter office has 8 staff for 113,000 students.
  10. In their cutting edge model, it is not always clear who is the teacher of record for a particular student at Venture Academies.
  11. Teacher peer observation is a critical component of Venture Academies.
  12. Match Next and Venture Academies do not highly customize curriculum … MatchNext customizes its teaching.
  13. This academic year MatchNext has 50 students and its tutors cost $12K-$15K per tutor.
  14. A recent study shows in Ohio 75% of brick & mortar schools perform well but only 3 of 23 virtual schools are meeting standards.
  15. The Georgia Virtual School (4th largest in the U.S.) students outperform brick & mortar students on state tests.
  16. When a digital device goes down in one of the Navigator Schools someone from the CMO needs to respond to the IT need within 2 minutes.
  17. After 60-minute blocks, Navigator Schools assess student learning and then create groups based on that discrete learning in real time.
  18. Some Colorado charter school authorizers do not visit a school before deciding whether to renew its charter.
  19. A Boulder CO virtual school considers mentors at its drop-in center invaluable … in some respects more valuable than teachers.
  20. New Florida charter school applicants can pay $500 for the authorizer to do an initial “material” review of the application.

Blended Learning Evaluation Tool

The Learning Collective has begun working with E.L. Haynes Charter School in Washington DC to develop a blended learning planning process AND an evaluation tool to rapidly assess the effectiveness of the school’s blended learning programs.  Specifically, we’ll be evaluating the effectiveness of 9 different blended learning vendors/programs implemented at the school.

Carnegie Corporation of New York has funded the development of this blended learning planning process and evaluation tool.  There is nothing quite like this evaluation tool in the marketplace.  Importantly, once developed, this tool may be available for other schools to use.

Instructional Design Principles That Work

Over time we’ve found that digital learning initiatives are most effective when based on research proven instructional design principles.  Rooted in psychology, instructional design refers to the practice of maximizing the appeal of instruction by focusing on the needs of the learner and on the end objective.

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