GB Cohort
Jennifer Mason's Page
High School On Line Classes

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Introduction

The presence of technology in our schools is growing, and the way in which we interact with each other in society is increasing through technological mediums. Facebook, Wikis, Blogs, Twitter - all of these current trends are changing the landscape of how we communicate with one another. It only follows that traditional schools, and teaching methods, are changing too. My curriculum topic focuses on exactly that: virtual/online high schools. I am looking specifically at what is offered and how instruction is delivered, as I feel that sooner than later we will at least be looking at "mixed mode" methods of instruction.

Arne Duncan sums up much of what I am interested in via this excerpt from "Digital Nation", a Frontline piece, which aired on PBS in February. The focus of this clip is "What will class look like in 10 years?". For more on the Frontline piece, please see the videos section of my wiki.


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Below you will find some links to information that I have found interesting and/or helpful as I explore the topic of online/virtual high schools.

Websites


This link is to Virtual High School - they write: "When educators and parents are looking for innovation and demonstrated achievement they turn to Virtual High School (VHS). VHS, a leader in online education and professional development, has proven in its thirteen-year history that our collaborative is committed to quality course design, online education standards and pedagogy, student assessment, teacher professional development, and teacher certification."

The Flat Classroom Project, which is based on Friedman's book The World is Flat, is a project for middle and high school students. The aim is to "flatten" the walls between classrooms to virtually connect two classes to increase learning.

THE Journal: Transforming Education through Technology - This is a great resource for information! This particular website gives the reader news briefs, information/articles on information technology, provides webinars, etc.

Clayton Christensen, a Harvard business professor, has co-authored the book Disrupting Class. He also has a very interesting blog which is tied to this concept. His book, and website, focus on how "disruptive change" can help students learn better.

Dangerously Irrelevant is another blog that focuses on issues of technology in education. It is authored by Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D., who is an Associate Professor and Coordinator at Iowa State University. He also is the Director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), which is dedicated to the technology needs of school administrators.

Will Richardson has a blog that focuses on "the use of Weblogs, wikis, RSS, audiocasts and other Read/Write Web related technologies in the K-12 realm, technologies that are transforming classrooms around the world."

Minnesota has a great online/virtual high school project - Northern Star Online - which is supported by eleven public school districts and four educational service agencies. They have quite an impressive list of courses that they are offering online this school year.

Videos


Blue Sky Online High School - In this video clip students tell about their experience with an online high school in Minnesota. These students seem very passionate about having online classes, and the video present an interesting perspective on how this particular school operates.





A new Frontline piece aired February 2, 2010 on PBS.
digital_nation: life on the virtual frontier.

The focus of this particular investigation is to examine how technology has transformed every aspect of modern culture - how we learn, how we interact, how we work, how we consume goods, and even how we wage war. The reporters focus on two major questions in this piece: " Is the technology moving faster than we can adapt to it? And is our 24/7 wired world causing us to lose as much as we've gained?"


Articles


The Quick and the Ed has a new article: "A National K-12 Virtual School? Not Likely." This article focuses on the Brookings Institute's recommendation that money needs to be put in to virtual schools. However, the authors feel that Congress will not pass funding that essentially takes money that would typically go to a district and use it to fund an on-line entity.

An article on Education week (Audit: Wis. Virtual Schools Close to Capacity) investigates virtual schools in Wisconsin. They find "that the performance of virtual school students, based on three years of statewide test results, was inconsistent. Students had higher reading scores than other public school students, but their math scores were generally lower."

While this is not purely online education related, this article on the 14 Technologies Educators should watch for in 2010 is interesting. The author of this article includes new websites and devices that educators can use in their classrooms. What I particularly like about this article is that the author gives a brief summary about each site/device/etc. Some of the items noted: Jing, Poll Everywhere, Evernote, and Twitter Widgets.

Education Next recently published an article "Virtual Schools: Will education technology change the role of the teacher and the nature of the learning?" This article discusses the transformative nature of technology in regards to education, but also the threat technology poses to the structure of education as we know it. An interesting item of note is the discussion on homeschooling. The authors say the the idea of homeschooling will increase; however, homeschooling as we know it will decrease. Instead, students will be staying home but will be receiving their education from instructors through schools on-line.

Education Week recently published an article entitled "U.S. Ed-Tech Plan Prods K-12 to Innovate". This article is a summary, but contains a link to a plan that a collection of educators, researchers, and policymakers wrote. Apparently, this plan took over nine months to write - it is called "Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology".

This article caught my eye: "Collaborative Tools Help Rural Alabama Community Equalize Education". This particular county/school district was experiencing problems attracting high quality teachers. So, through the use of video conferencing, they were able to better serve their student population. While this is not an example of a virtual high school, this is a great example of using technology to cross boundaries in order to educate students and allow them access to opportunities that are otherwise unavailable.
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Conclusion

Through my exploration of on-line education, and virtual schooling, it definitely seems that the presence of technology in our schools is growing. I do feel that as educators we need to be at least looking at "mixed mode" methods of instruction. People are expecting different methods of instruction, and are using different tools to meet these needs. By allowing students to utilize on-line instruction for at least some of their education, we can better serve students and meet some of the needs needed by the digital natives in our classrooms today.

In addition, a common thread of thinking is present in much of what I explored: what exactly do we want students to learn, and what is 'valuable' in terms of learning? I think that we are still coming to our own conclusions to both of these questions, as there are many different answers out there. Consequently, I think these are questions that must be kept in the forefront of our minds as leaders in the field of education.