The Educational Products Information Exchange (EPIE) Institute was founded In 1967 as an educational research, evaluation, and development organization. It is original mission was to provide schools and home consumers with research-based information aimed at improving the selection and use of all types of learning resources and technology. EPIE’s reports on such resources became know as, “the Consumer Reports of education.” During the 1970’s EPIE developed and advocated a process through which feedback from learners -- “education’s ultimate consumers”— could be used to improve the learning effectiveness of instructional resources.
During the 1980s, with major support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ford Foundation, the Geraldine R Dodge Foundation, The George Gund Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, EPIE developed the ‘whole curriculum’ approach to curriculum alignment and evaluation of learning resources. The approach, then an innovation and now the standard, is based on aligning goals, objectives, learning resources and assessment with learners’ and teachers’ needs and intended learning outcomes.
In the mid-80’s, with the increasing use of computers in schools and homes, EPIE began focusing on ways of improving computer learning both in and out of schools. To do this it developed The Educational Software Selector (TESS), a school and home consumer information and evaluation source on learning and productivity software. In the early 1990s, its work with TESS led EPIE to sponsor the States/Schools Consortium for Software Selection, a CD-based, and then a web-based means through which many states provided local schools with access to TESS.
In the early 1990-91, at the invitation of the W. Alton Jones Foundation, EPIE applied the Whole Curriculum approach to comparative evaluations of school-based networked ‘integrated instructional systems.’ In the mid-1990’s, directing its research, evaluation and advocacy work beyond schools, EPIE produced the landmark report, “Creating Learning Communities: a Guide to the Networking of Schools, Homes, and Communities.” The report was the result of two years of research funded by the MacArthur Foundation. And it was web-published by the Consortium for School Networking (COSN) and the U.S. Department of Education.
In a 1994 in Education Week essay, “The 81% Solution: Developing Lifelong Learners”, EPIE’s founder, Ken Komoski, described the potential of enabling at-risk youth and families to earn donated used business computers as tools for improving school learning, family education and community life. The essay was prompted by EPIE having consulted on two pioneering, pre-Internet school-community networking projects in Michigan and Florida from 1988 to 1992.
Although these two pre-Internet community projects were unable to fulfill their visions, they inspired a strategic shift in EPIE’s three-decades of work. This took a direction toward improving learning through research, evaluation and development via free access to a web-based environment of learning resources that align with intended learning expectations, meet learners’ needs – and reward learners’ for sharing personal evaluations of useful resources. And to develop this web-based learning environment in ways that make it motivating for learners to use – in school, outside of school, and throughout their lives.
As a result, since 1995, EPIE’s work has focused increasingly on developing such a web-based means for empowering schools and families to provide in-home access to web-based ‘whole curriculum’ learning, designed to motivate and reward learners of all ages to voluntarily increase their learning. 1995 EPIE co-founded LINCT Coalition (Learning and Information Networking for Communities via Technology, www.linct.org. LINCT is an informal coalition of socially concerned nonprofit organizations, local community groups, schools, churches, families, and cooperating businesses. Within a LINCT community, businesses play the important role of donating used computers and initial Internet access that are “learned and earned” by those who cannot afford the costs of computer training, equipment, and Internet.
In 1996, LINCT Coalition began working nationally with urban, suburban, and rural community groups to empower low-income youth and families to ‘learn and earn’ computers and related services donated by businesses, while learning job skills, plus lifelong web-based learning skills. In 1998, with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, EPIE Institute developed a Web-based Community Services, Time Dollar Exchange system.
Since 1999, the focus of EPIE’s work has been on development of the Smart Schools-Smart Families Consortium, which has developed www.eLearningspace.org. Through this web-learning environment, EPIE has translated and expanded the LINCT ‘learn-and-earn’ strategy into a system that rewards youth’s out-of-school learning time with the earning of Time Dollars -- trade-able on-line for U.S. Savings Bonds for college, college tuition credits, gift certificates for name-brand products, CDs, movie tickets, etc. During the project’s four years’ spent researching , developing, and piloting of www.eLearningspace.org the U.S. Department of Education, the Hearst Foundations, and Cisco Learning Institute have provided major funding.
Today, eLearningspace is emerging as a cooperative web-environment in which learners, parents, teachers and mentors all play roles in empowering and motivating learning by 3rd-to-12th graders as they work out-of-school on standards-related academic learning, while experiencing first hand how improving academic learning can connect with real-world earning. The eLearningspace environment is:
Motivating youth to voluntarily “re-channel” at least 10 percent of the 4.6 hours-per-day youth currently spend with TV and video games into productive web-learning-and-earning time;
Empowering youth with e-learning tools and skills needed to plan, construct and assess their learning, and the effectiveness of the learning objects they choose, use, and evaluate;
Ensuring that systemically integrated input and feedback from youth, parents, teachers and mentors is the driving force in eLearningspace’s continuous evolution as a means for improving lifelong learning and earning skills for all youth and families.
Click to view www.eLearningspace.org.
Click to view www.LINCT.org