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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Instant Messaging Re-Visited

Well, these past two weeks have been a trip down memory lane as we re-visit a number of different issues that we have considered before here at Virtual High School Meanderings (see Virtual School Course Development, Teaching in Virtual Schools, Virtual Schooling Questions, Virtual Schools Not Generating Revenue, These New Students of Our's). I guess this entry is no different.

Back in May, I posted an entry about instant messaging (see Using Instant Messaging), which was actually in response to a discussion between Sebastien Paquet (see Fighting for Attention) and Stephen Downes (see Should We Ban Instant Messaging in Schools?). The main discussion point was an issue that Stephen raised that went something like this:

You know, it's funny - I read so much about teachers trying to find ways to get students' attention, and when they find a device - a communication device - that captures students' attention, they want to ban it.
In my response, I referenced some research that I had conducted with two virtual school teacher about four years ago now. Based on this research, we felt that instant messaging was a tool that students felt comfortable in utilizing, given the amount of use during their personal time and that students personally felt that instant messaging assisted in both their learning and their sense of “knowing” their virtual classmates. Based on these trends, we recommended that teachers in virtual high schools should give consideration to adopting a more formal role for IM in their e-Learning environments.

I raise this issue again because of an entry at Online Learning Update entitled 7 Things You Should Know About Instant Messaging - Educause Learning Initiative. The main thrust of the article at the end of the link trail is basically a "how to" guide on what instant messaging is and how to use it. There is actually little in there on how a teacher, particularly a virtual school teacher would use it effectively.

However, seeing this entry triggered my mind back to one of the keynote speakers at the Virtual School Symposium in Denver in 2005 (see The Notes from Mark Milliron's Keynote). Or rather, two things in particular about his keynote - his discussion of the disruptive tehnologies and his notion of persistent partial attention or a blend of multi-tasking with mindfulness .

In terms of the idea of a disrupive technology, most of his conversation during the keynote was about e-mail and how we can literally spend the entire day checking e-mail and disrupting our normal work patterns. I would think that for instant messaging this would be even more so, as most instant messengers have the box for each conversation that pops up or flashes on your toolbar or even makes a sound everytime something new is written. And given the fact that these conversations are usually short and choppy interactions, that's a lot of popping up or flashing or chiming going on. It was actually this disruptive technology that Chris Dede witnessed in his daughter's own computer use that first got him talking about a neomillenial learning style (see Students with neomillennial learning styles).

On the other side of that coin, the use of instant messaging for personal use, academic use, or even business use does demand from use persistent partial attention. We have to be mindful of the various conversations that we have going on with one of more individuals, along with the paper we are writing or the e-mail we are answering or the blog we are reviewing or the online paper we are reading or any combination of those. At no time can we devote complete attention to any one of these tasks while we are multi-tasking to accomplish all of these at the same time.

Is this practice of persistent partial attention a socialization (i.e., a habit) that we have formed or have our brains adapted to the nature of the digital age and we just think that way now? If you can answer that question, you're one step closer to answering the question I posed in the entry These New Students of Our's.

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Monday, January 30, 2006

What Do We Talk About?

This is interesting... It is kind of like a word cloud for this blog that I created at Snapshirts.com. Quite interesting...

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Virtual Schooling in the News

Only the Google news alert for virtual school and cyber school this week.

Chicago Plans Virtual School
KSDK - St. Louis, MO, USA

Students used to the "three Rs" of learning might soon have to add "reboot" to reading, writing and 'rithmetic. The Chicago Board of Education Wednesday approved the creation of the Chicago Virtual Charter School, believed to be the state's first online public school. The district still faces hurdles with its proposal, including required approval by the Illinois State Board of Education and strong opposition from the Chicago Teachers Union.

Education system to include virtual schools
Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS, USA

In the near future, students may be able to receive a Leavenworth public schools education without ever leaving their homes. When the Leavenworth Board of Education met earlier this week, Superintendent Clay Guthmiller said he intended to search for someone to help with the startup of an Internet-based virtual school. District officials are hoping to have the virtual school in place for the next school year.

3 schools make `promise' to aid English learners
San Gabriel Valley Tribune - West Covina, CA, USA

Three Baldwin Park schools have been chosen to participate in a pilot project to boost achievement for students who don't speak English, county education officials said Tuesday.Heath Elementary, Holland Middle and Baldwin Park High were chosen for the PROMISE Initiative, a three-year study that also includes a dozen schools from Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties. Ramon Zavala, senior director of Student Achievement for Baldwin Park Unified School District, said the district applied for the program and was the only one chosen to represent Los Angeles County. In the program, the various schools and districts will work to create a "virtual school district" to share ideas, teaching practices, research, and experts with each other on how to develop better programs for English learners, Zavala said.

City approves state's first virtual public school
Chicago Sun-Times - United States

Students accustomed to the traditional "three Rs" of learning might soon have to add "reboot" to reading, writing and 'rithmetic. The Chicago Board of Education on Wednesday approved the creation of the Chicago Virtual Charter School, believed to be the state's first online public school. The district, which wants the school to open next fall, still faces hurdles with its proposal, including approval by the Illinois State Board of Education. Plus, the Chicago Teachers Union strongly opposes the school. [See all stories on this topic]

Chicago plans state's first virtual public school
WQAD - Moline, IL, USA

Chicago Public Schools hopes to open the state's first virtual public school.About 600 elementary school students would take online courses from home if the Chicago Virtual Academy is approved. C-P-S officials said yesterday they will be able to verify that the students would receive 300 minutes of instruction a day. That's the threshold needed for the state to reimburse the school.

School: Peanut allergy is not a disability
Science Daily (press release) - USA

Nashville officials and the Tennessee attorney general say a boy's peanut allergy does not entitle him to long-term home schooling at district expense.Officials at Metro Nashville Schools say such allergies do not qualify as a disability, and said they had taken all steps possible to make Stratton Elementary School as safe as possible for 9-year-old Brentson Duke.

Digital classroom growing phenomenon
Redwater Tribune - Morinville, Alberta, Canada

Even though Ren Giesbrecht is the director of technology for Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division, he is still an old dog learning new tricks. Wanting to go to a movie, but not knowing what was playing, he asked his granddaughter to go down to the corner store to buy a newspaper. “She instead went to the conputer and online had all the movie listings all laid out for me. I work in this field and I never thought of that.” said Giesbrecht, a former Morinville school principal whowas in this commmunity for 26 years.The number of students taking courses online has increased from 100 to 1,000 since St. Gabrial Cyber School started up 11 years ago.

Board OKs activity fee for cyber students
The Evening Sun - Hanover, PA, USA

Cyber-school students can step away from the computer and join after-school activities in the Gettysburg Area School District - if they can afford it. The school board tentatively agreed Tuesday to charge cyber-school children in the district $100 for one activity and $50 for each additional activity. They will also have to pay a deposit for athletic equipment or musical instruments. But if their cyber school provides extracurricular activities, the students can't join Gettysburg's, board members said.

Four Barrington students arrested; charges include cyber-stalking ...
Bristol Phoenix - Bristol, RI, USA

Several students from Barrington High School were arrested by police last week for charges ranging from cyber-stalking to larceny to possession of marijuana. On Wednesday, Jan. 18, police charged a 17 year old Barrington boy with larceny. The charge stems from an incident with a missing wallet, first reported missing from the high school on Jan. 1. The wallet was later found outside the small gym at the high school, but a credit card had been used for several purchases. Police were able to track the purchases, and watched surveillance video tapes from the places the purchases were made. From the video tapes they spotted a partial license plate and description of the vehicle which was believed to be driven by the student who used the credit card. Officers checked the plate to get more information about who owned it. [See all stories on this topic]

North Opinion / Viewpoint: When going gets tough, tough advertise
Pittsburgh Post Gazette - Pittsburgh, PA, USA

It might have caught your attention recently. It certainly caught mine. Sandwiched between the early evening ads aimed at boomers for prostate shrinkers and sleep aids was a commercial on WTAE-TV for the McKeesport Area School District. Huh? It featured pleasant scenes of a school campus: smiling, bright-eyed children reading, working on computers, learning shop skills; teachers and even parents looking absolutely thrilled to be a part of it all; soft music; and a voice-over telling me McKeesport Area schools are "The best choice." It sort of looked like one of those recruiting promos Notre Dame and other big-name schools run during halftime of nationally televised gridiron contests.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Virtual School Course Development

Recently, an entry at Online Learning Update provided us with the opinions of Bill Olsen from the Island Packet (a newspaper in Hilton Head, South Carolina). The article was in support of a bill in the South Carolina legislature to create a virtual school. Olsen feels that with a 30 percent drop-out rate in South Carolina, even if virtual schools are not a panacea, they need all of the help they can get.

Keeping in this theme, the impression that Olsen would put out there with his call to action is that virtual schooling is somehow better (at least for a certain segment of our students) than regular schooling. I was remindered of a line that I heard at the Virtual School Symposium this past November, where one speaker said something to the effect that all online learning allows us to do is provide mediocre instruction to a wider audience. This speaker then went on to talk about how like in the classroom, there is good instruction and bad instruction, and that we need to ensure that there is good instruction available. I personally believe that good instruction begins with a well designed online course.

Some time ago, it was actually back in April and was one of the first five or six posts that I ever made, I posted an entry about online course development in virtual schooling (see How to Develop an Online Course?). I guess like the questions I asked about virtual teaching, this one seems to have caught on a bit as well.

All of these entries address some aspect of what constitutes good web-based design for the purposes of online learning.

In my original post on the topic, I outlined seve guidelines that I had found as a part of a research project where I interviewed six course developers involved in creating web-based courses for secondary school students. The themes from those interviews were:

Course developers should:

  1. prior to beginning development of any of the web-based material, plan out the course with ideas for the individual lessons and specific items that they would like to include;
  2. keep the navigation simple and to a minimum, but don’t present the material the same way in every lesson;
  3. provide a summary of the content from the required readings or the synchronous lesson and include examples that are personalized to the students’ own context;
  4. ensure students are given clear instructions and model expectations of the style and level that will be required for student work;
  5. refrain from using too much text and consider the use of visuals to replace or supplement text when applicable;
  6. only use multimedia that will enhances the content and not simply because it is available; and
  7. develop their content for the average or below average student.

As a follow-up to that student, I interviewed and conducted focus groups with six students from the virtual high school that the above developers designed their courses for. At present I have those sessions transcribed and am currently looking over the data to see if there is a connection or a mismatch between what the course developers found important and what the students felt was important. As I get the results of that study available, they will be posted here.

In the meantime, in your experience as a virtual school student, parent of a child who is engaged in virtual schooling, a teacher in or administrator of a virtual school, a course developer for a virtual school, a researcher of virtual schooling, or just an interested party... What constitutes good web-based design for secondary school students? What should be included? What should be avoided?

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Teaching in Virtual Schools

A while ago, like back in July, I asked What Does Teaching in a Virtual High School Look Like? Over the past few months, there have been a number of entries from other blogs that are starting to look at this very questions.

I think these last two entries in particular hit the nail on the head. The other entries all deal with the how of online instruction and how one can become a better online teacher.

But these last two entries ask how is an online teacher different from a face-to-face teacher and how do we then evaluate this teacher because of these differences?

Good questions to ask... I'll come back to the evaluation one a little later, in the meantime what do you think about these two questions?

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Virtual Schooling in the News

And around the various sources we go again for the news of the week. From the eSchool News.

Some students prefer taking classes online
The Associated Press

The Associated Press reports that at some schools in South Dakota, online classes have proved increasingly popular. The courses were originally intended for nontraditional students who lived far from campus. A recent study found that 42 percent of the students enrolled in South Dakota distance-education courses were located on campus at the university that was hosting the online course.

The Ohio Digital Classroom selects PowerMediaPlus.com as a media-on-demand provider for the state
January 11, 2006 - Chicago, IL, USA

CLEARVUE & SVE, along with eight Ohio public television stations and four Ohio educational technology agencies, have partnered to bring the vast media resources of PowerMediaPlus.com to classrooms throughout the state. "This is an exciting partnership for us, combining the reach of Ohio's public television stations and Ed Tech Agencies with the scope of the PowerMediaPlus.com digital delivery capabilities," said Mike Kroening, Vice President of Sales for CLEARVUE & SVE. "This important relationship will make it possible for Ohio educators to obtain the next generation in digital media content and curriculum integration features."

Virtual schools offer clubs, field trips

To counter the concerns that online instruction deprives students of close peer-to-peer interaction and other forms of socialization, a growing number of virtual-school programs are offering virtual "clubs" for participating students and organizing field trips that place students in the physical company of their online peers. Julie Young, president and chief administrative officer of the Florida Virtual School (FVLS), a provider of supplemental and full-time virtual instruction to students in Florida and internationally, said many of the social activities that students take part in through her organization mirror those of the contemporary work force.

This next two are from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development SmartBrief.

Pennsylvania districts urge overhaul of cyberschool funding
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

On the eve of a Harrisburg hearing Wednesday on the funding formula for Pennsylvania's 12 cyberschools, the state School Board Association has urged a moratorium on the creation of new ones. Districts want the state to pick up more of the cyberschools' costs.

Online gym classes encourage fitness for life
ABCNEWS

Fans of Minneapolis' online gym class, which requires that students keep a log of workouts and research fitness topics, say the course caters to the needs of kids with heavy course loads and of those with disabilities. Online gym teacher Frank Goodrich points out that students are more apt to stick with physical activities when they get to do the choosing.

And another from Edutopia News - the electronic newsletter from The George Lucas Educational Foundation.

School Boards Rethink Cyber Schools

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association is urging the state to halt the opening of online schools until officials determine a better funding formula for this new kind of charter school.

From the Google News Alert for virtual school.

Scio blazes a virtual charter school trail
kgw.com (subscription) - Portland, OR, USA

... Since classes began in September, Oregon Connections Academy is blazing the virtual-school trail even as the state wrestles with how schools like it should ... [More detailed description unavailable due to subscription requirement]

Janesville School Board considers new-school education
Janesville Gazette - Janesville, WI, USA

How could the Janesville public schools be improved? How about a school for high school students interested in engineering, drama or the fine arts? How about matching online courses to the needs of one student at a time? How about a school that enforces a dress code and strict standards of behavior? Or one for middle-school girls only-and another one for boys?

State school superintendent Kathy Cox coming to HoCo schools
Houston Home Journal - Perry, GA, USA

Kathy Cox, Georgia Superintendent of Schools, will visit Northside High School and Thomson Middle School this Friday. Cox will arrive at Northside High School at approximately 8:45 a.m. and end the day around 3:15 p.m. at Thomson Middle School. "The state of Georgia is using technology more and more to improve student achievement through programs like the Georgia Virtual School, the SAT On-line Prep Class, and other initiatives,” said Cox. “I'm coming to Houston County to see how they are using state-of the art technology and outstanding innovation to produce high-achieving students."

Do cyber charter schools get too much state money?
Pittsburgh Post Gazette - Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Operators of Pennsylvania's Internet-based charter schools spend $2,400 to $7,230 to educate each child, but they bill taxpayers an average of $8,000 per student. The funding system has to change, said the House Education Committee's chairman, Jess Stairs, R-Mount Pleasant. "Changes are needed, but what those changes might be, I don't know yet," Mr. Stairs said yesterday after his committee heard from administrators of cyber schools, traditional public schools and the state Department of Education.

And the Google News Alert for cyber school.

Educators complain about cyber school spending
Uniontown Herald Standard - Uniontown, PA, USA

Public educators are complaining about the amount of money school districts are sending to the state's 12 cyber charter schools, saying there's not enough oversight in the online schools' spending and instruction.
The public school educators told the House Education Committee Wednesday it makes little sense for school districts to pay cyberschools an amount based on local per pupil spending rather than an evaluation of the cyberschool's actual costs and services. [See all stories on this topic]

OC board studies activities policies
Oil City Derrick - Oil City, PA, USA

The Oil City Area School Board undertook two policies Monday to comply with new state laws requiring Pennsylvania public schools to afford extracurricular and interscholastic activities to cyber school and home-schooled students. The non-traditional students must be residents of the school district to participate in everything from the football team to the physics club and cyber-school students must pay all fees and expenses associated with their participation. [See all stories on this topic]

Schools will seek cyber funding relief
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Allegheny County school superintendents plan to ask state lawmakers next week to slash the money that public schools must pay to cyber schools. "There's no equity there. That's the issue," said Hampton school Superintendent Lawrence Korchnak, who will speak on behalf of the superintendents Wednesday at an informational meeting of the House Education Committee. State law requires that public schools pay 80 percent of their per-pupil costs as tuition for students registered in their districts and enrolled in online charter schools. Cyber schools receive an average of about $7,500 per student from Allegheny County schools, Korchnak said.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Virtual Schooling Questions

Back in July, I posted a series of questions for those involved with virtual schooling that I got from the DAOS website (see Questions for those Involved in Virtual High Schools). Those questions included:

The questions that require attention (QAR's) for policy makers start with these:

  1. How do appointed officials best communicate their understanding of e-learning?
  2. What expectations should appointed officials have of e-learning?
  3. How do elected officials discuss e-learning with their constituents who have experienced education in an entirely different context?
  4. What should be the expectations for e learning in the context of a standards based reform movement?
  5. What assurances exist that e-learning experiences will conform appropriately to teaching and learning standards at the state and federal levels?
  6. Can e-learning assist students in making progress toward the goals of No Child Left Behind?

Among the questions that require attention by educators are:

  1. How will these new schools alter the types of preparation needed by teachers?
  2. In what ways will the communication between teachers and students change and what can teachers do about it?
  3. How can the fact that a teacher is not in a building effect ongoing professional development?
  4. Should there be certification issues associated with being a teacher in an e-learning environment?
  5. What impact should virtual schooling have on colleges of education?
  6. What guidance can content selection standards provide?
  7. What different expectations should administrators have in shifting to an e-learning environment?
  8. How will e-learning effect financial planning for administrators?
  9. How will students in e-learning perform on standard tests—both formative and summative and what should administrators anticipate?
  10. What avenues for job growth are there for administrators in e-learning?
  11. How necessary is it that professionals in e-learning be trained online?
  12. What drives the professional development train—using content or using technology, and in what combination?
About two months ago, Darren (over at Teaching and Developing Online) posted an entry entitled Basic Online High School Questions. This entry, I assume was based on his experiences with the The Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School. Now, unlike the Charter schools supported by the folks at DAOS, Catholic education in the province of Saskatchewan (like many other Canadian provinces) is part of the publicly funded education system.

Go over and take a look at the list prepared by Darren and the crowd at the SCCS, then compare that to the list prepared by the people at DAOS and see if you can find the different themes and views about virtual schooling.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Virtual Schools Not Generating Revenue

It wasn't that long ago that I posted an entry about how it seemed foolish to me that people in the K-12 systemwould think that they would be able to save money and even make money from virtual schooling (see An Article of Interest). In that post, I stated that "in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador a teacher would typically have 150-180+ students (25-30 students per class for 6 classes in a seven slot schedule), whereas the virtual high school in Newfoundland, the Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation, has indicated that roughly 80 students is enough for a full course load for an online teacher." At least that was their thinking on the issue during the first year or two.

Anyway, I raise this issue again because of an entry at Distance-Educator.com's Daily News entitled No tide of cash from virtual schools. As best I can tell, as I only get a preview of the article without registering with the newspaper, in this article there is a school or school board that isn't generating the revenues from their virtual school that they initially expected.

I guess my question in all of these entries is, when did public schooling get into the business of trying to make money? A secondary question would be if personalized instruction isn't done in the traditional classroom because of all of the additional work it would create for teachers, why do some believe personal instruction online will be less work that group instruction in the traditional classroom?

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

News From a Friend

I had this news item forwarded to me from a friend of mine also interested in virtual schooling:

http://www.edutopia.org/magazine/ed1article.php?id=Art_1270&issue=apr_05
HIGHSCHOOL.COM

All over the country, secondary school students are going online for classes. Will the virtual classroom redefine what it means to be a student -- or a teacher?

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Virtual Schooling in the News

Again from a bunch of different sources this week. From Edutopia News - the electronic newsletter from The George Lucas Educational Foundation.

Highschool.com

All over the country, secondary school students are going online for classes. Will the virtual classroom redefine what it means to be a student -- or a teacher?

By Christina Wood

Katarina Williams is an ambitious tenth grader in Haines City, Florida, shouldering the full burden of college-prep coursework: trigonometry, English, Earth-space science, economics, and American government. But trig is the only class that requires her to sit in a traditional classroom. The others she attends via modem, without leaving her house.

Williams, a student at the Florida Virtual School, is part of a new generation of students trading textbooks for text messaging. Nearly 300,000 high schoolers attended online classes in 2002-03, estimates Eduventures, an independent research firm. Most take an online class or two to obtain access to classes not available at their local school, gain a competitive edge when preparing for college, or accommodate a jammed schedule. A few, though, are so convinced of the efficacy of online instruction that they've abandoned traditional schools.

Read the full article about the burgeoning online-learning movement from the April 2005 issue of Edutopia magazine, the award-winning publication of The George Lucas Educational Foundation.

http://email.e-mailnetworks.com/ct/ct.php?t=1145728&c=649404757&m=m&type=3

Online Charters Woo Students

The number of online schools in Ohio has grown considerably in recent years, and students at top-rated schools in the state are enrolling in an online charter school despite the virtual school's poor academic rankings.

http://email.e-mailnetworks.com/ct/ct.php?t=1145716&c=649404757&m=m&type=3

Want to learn more about the online-learning phenomenon? An Edutopia special report on this international trend features profiles of model programs and interviews with students, teachers, and experts.

http://email.e-mailnetworks.com/ct/ct.php?t=1145715&c=649404757&m=m&type=3

And fromour Google News Alert service for virtual school and for cyber school.

Virtual high school to stay put
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (subscription) - Milwaukee, WI, USA

Computers will remain powered up for students in the School District's virtual high school after the School Board approved a revised five-year contract at a meeting Wednesday. The future of iQ Academies at Wisconsin, the Waukesha-based school that provides online instruction to students around the state, had been in doubt after School Board members raised concerns about a projected deficit at the end of the school year. As it is, the school is expected to post a $604,000 deficit for the year ending in June. But revisions to the district's contract with KC Distance Learning, the private company that manages the school, mean that the district won't incur further debt even if iQ doesn't add enrollment for the next school year, district officials said. [See all stories on this topic]

Lt. Governor Perdue appoints Bruce Friend to lead NC Virtual's ...
Carolina Newswire (press release) - NC, USA

Lt. Governor Bev Perdue, Chair of the State’s Business Education Technology Alliance, announced the appointment of Bruce Friend to lead North Carolina’s Virtual High School efforts at a meeting of the State Board of Education today. “Bruce Friend comes to NC with the experience and background we’re looking for to lead our efforts to create a first class Virtual High School that will serve our students from the coast to the mountains,” Perdue said. “Friend comes to this position having been Chief Academic Officer and Chief Administrative Officer of the Florida Virtual School where we played an integral role in the implementation of online learning. NC Virtual’s Board believes that Bruce Friend is the right person to lead our efforts to create the best Virtual School in the country for North Carolina’s kids.”

Violent video games feed unhealthy ideas to young kids
TheNewsTribune.com (subscription) - Tacoma, WA, USA

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold trained on the violent video game Doom to rehearse for the carnage of Columbine. One week before the worst school massacre in American history, I predicted on NBC’s “Today” that the triple school homicide in Paducah, Ky., would be followed by other such killings and that Doom would be the virtual reality rehearsal simulator of choice. Unfortunately, I was correct. After Columbine, the FBI and the Secret Service found that the teen perpetrators in all the then-recent school killings were immersed in violent entertainment, especially violent video games.

His task: Updating schools
Boston Globe - United States

Officially, he reports for duty next Tuesday, but Haverhill's new school chief is already busy thinking up ways to improve the city's public schools. Introducing Internet-based courses and a magnet school for science and math at the high school are two of the ideas Raleigh Buchanan said he hopes to explore with his new colleagues. Others include developing a strategic plan for the system, grappling with the city's high dropout rate, and introducing a program for gifted high school students that focuses on international issues.

Blazing a virtual-school trail
Corvallis Gazette Times - Corvallis, OR, USA

Oregon’s first online charter school, run by the Scio School District,gets good marks from the mom of one of its students. Jefferson Warner sometimes starts his fourth-grade class in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon. Sometimes, if he’s especially restless, he skips it altogether. The flexibility in the Lebanon boy’s schedule is what his mother, Shawna, loves about Oregon Connections Academy, the “virtual” charter school that’s now part of the Scio School District.Jefferson is one of 692 students — none of them from Scio — who have enrolled so far in the state’s first wholly online public charter school.

Cyber bills are adding up for Venango school districts
Oil City Derrick - Oil City, PA, USA

Cyber charter school enrollment has topped 100 this year for the four Venango County public school districts, and while the districts have set aside nearly $1 million to pay the tuition bills, it may not be enough.
Combined local enrollment in the cyber schools, which provide instruction to students via the Internet, has jumped by 15 to 112 since last year. About 97 Venango County residents were enrolled in cyber school programs last year, up from about 87 the previous year. [See all stories on this topic]

We'd like to hear from cyber students
Oil City Derrick - Oil City, PA, USA

Cyber school students do not ride a bus or attend a brick and mortar school, do not take part in a typical gym class or eat lunch in the school cafeteria, and cannot be sent to the office if they are tardy or misbehave.
Rather, they "attend" school at home via the Internet. They receive and complete assignments, take quizzes and tests, consult with instructors and "participate" in class discussions, all over the Internet.

Area Schools Weigh Costs And Benefits
Yankton Daily Press - Yankton, SD, USA

... In addition, the "Cyber-Soph" program provides about 30 randomly-chosen sophomores with laptops, he said. "Those sophomores work with laptops the school has ... [Unable to get complete preview, as site requires free registration]

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

National Delurking Week

Nathan Lowell, over at Cognitive Dissonance, has reminded me that it is National Delurking Week. I recall seeing someone else post about this in my Bloglines earlier this week, but for whatever reason it didn't make an impression on me at that stage.

Anyway, a few weeks ago you may recall I asked the question What is being accomplished?, where I questioned what was being accomplished by this blog when I appear to have a high readership, but have very low participation in the ideas that are presented.

Well, in honor of National Delurking Week, and in response to some of the reflection that I have had about what exactly is being accomplished through this forum, I would like to ask you to post some feedback for me in the comments area.

This idea is not novell, in fact I got this idea from the Unknown Professor at Financial Rounds, when he posted an entry at the beginning of the year entitled I Need Some Feedback. He had taken his inspiration from the end of course evaluations that he gives his students at the end of each semester.

I was thinking that we are appoaching the one year anniversary of this blog (basically two and a half months away) and since it is National Delurking Week, it might be a good time to ponder the following.
  • In general, what are the things you like best about the blog?
  • What would you like to see more of (topics, style, etc.)?
  • What would you like to see less of?
  • Are there any particular posts that stand out in your mind as either good or bad?
  • Are there sites you'd recommend that I add to the blogroll? If so, tell me a bit about the site and why it might fit.

Let me know what you think...

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Monday, January 09, 2006

New Virtual Schooling Programs

Have you heard the news? According to Online Learning Update, they report that Online learning program continues to grow - Associated Press.

So, here are some new virtual schooling programs to announce based upon these entries that I have come across in my Bloglines account. Also, some new providers through in there as well.

Alabama

British Columbia

Class.com

North Carolina

South Dakota

The Virtual High School

I should also note that the Virtual Schooling in the News for this week announced the plans for a state-wide virual school in Tennessee.

And while I'm announcing things, another one from Distance-Educator.com's Daily News, a set of resources for K-12 distance educators at "NEW" K-12 Distance Learning Resource. As I find others, I'll post more of these...

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

My Dangerous Idea

George Seimans over at elearnspace asks us WHAT IS YOUR DANGEROUS IDEA? The prompt seems to be catching on, as BionicTeacher has taken up the call with An interesting writing prompt and How to Save the World has posted his thoughts in Blinded by Science: What's Your Dangerous Idea?

My own dangerous idea is that we create a school in every rural community in North America, no matter how big or small. These schools should be wired with broadband Internet access (fibre would be ideal) and a state of the art computer lab. These schools would be staffed with at least two teachers (more if the size warrants) and a computer technician. Every state would have a state-funded, state-wide virtual school that provided a full compliment of middle and secondary school curriculum (i.e., every state authorize course on the books). This would allow for the community school to once again become the center of rural life, it would provide a local education for anyone who wanted it, it would allow for students in primary/elementary school to learn from a local teacher while then middle and high school students would learn from a local teacher if numbers warranted but via the virtual school if numbers didn't, and it would provide access to the same quality of education to rural students as urban students.

That's my dangerous idea... What's your's?

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Virtual Schooling in the News

We have a lot from a bunch of different sources this week. These first couple actually come from eSchool News Online.

Students get access to classes statewide
Mobile Register - Mobile, AL, USA

Students at Alma Bryant High School in Bayou La Batre will soon be able to take classes being taught at schools across the state via the Internet. Bryant was one of 46 Alabama schools to receive a technology grant known as ACCESS (Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators and Students Statewide). It's part of a $3.4 million statewide pilot program. Officials hope ACCESS will one day allow students throughout the state to take unique electives and advanced courses offered elsewhere, according to the State Department of Education, which chooses the schools that get the money. [Directly to the Mobile Register]

More S.D. students taking classes online
ArgusLeader.com - Sioux Fall, SD, UGA

A rapidly growing number of college students are avoiding lectures and early morning commitments by taking classes online through South Dakota's public universities. So many in fact, that the number of credit hours delivered electronically in 2004-05 is 36 percent higher than the previous year. More than four out of 10 of those students are even living on campus, but for one reason or another choose to take classes over their personal computers. [Directly to the ArgusLeader.com]

Webcast: Virtual school helps at-risk students succeed

Online instruction has helped several at-risk Illinois students finish their high school education and earn their diploma, when it's likely many of these students otherwise would have dropped out of the system, said Sarah Antrim-Cambium, the Illinois Virtual High School (IVHS) coordinator for participating schools in Cook County. Antrim-Cambium was speaking at a Dec. 14 webcast sponsored by the North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL). The purpose of the event was to highlight how virtual schooling can be used to reach students who are at risk of failing or of dropping out of the traditional school system.

This next one is from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development SmartBrief.

Pennsylvania to review cyberschool funding formula
eSchool News - Bethesda, MD, USA

Pennsylvania lawmakers will hold hearings this year to revisit the state's funding formula for its 12 charter cyberschools, which currently serve more than 10,000 students. District leaders contend the amounts they've had to give cyberschools exceed the online schools' actual costs. [May require free registration]

These two are from Edutopia News - the electronic newsletter from The George Lucas Educational Foundation.

Web Courses Offer Students Second Chance
The Herald - Rock Hill, SC, USA

Students in York, South Carolina, who are failing or nearly failing high school courses needed for graduation have a new online tool that aims to help them. Starting this month, the local school district will launch NovaNet.

Online Learning

Throughout the country, schools are turning to online courses to enhance and enrich their curriculum. Learn more about this nationwide trend in Edutopia's multimedia special report on online learning.

This next one comes from EdTech Trends.

Online state program expands schools' curricula
The Des Moines Register - Des Moines, IA, USA

Cassidy Thompson was skeptical about taking a class taught by a teacher located 25 miles away from her Story County high school. But Cassidy said she's learned more from Iowa Learning Online 's physics class than she would have from a traditional high school class. "It's been a challenge, but it's been good," said Cassidy, 17, a senior at Maxwell-Collins High School. "If we wouldn't have been offered the class online, we wouldn't have been able to take physics."

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming. The Google News Alert for the terms cyber and school and the terms virtual and school.

Students in dark on cyber school crash
Australian - Australia

Students at Australia's best-known computer training college could lose thousands of dollars each if its owners fail to find a buyer. Computer Power's 1254 students and 90 staff at the college, which operates 11 training facilities in Australia and New Zealand, arrived for classes this week to find doors locked and the company in the hands of administrators. One student told The Australian he had been unable to get any information on the future of the college, and all calls went unanswered. The college's website had no information.

Bricks v. Clicks in Pa. funding fight
eSchool News (subscription) - Bethesda, MD, USA

In the latest salvo in the battle over cyber school funding, Pennsylvania legislators say they want to reduce the amount of money that cyber schools receive under the state's current formula. These schools don't incur the same per-pupil costs of traditional bricks-and-mortar schools, state legislators argue--and funding them at the same per-pupil levels takes funding away from traditional-school students. Pennsylvania state lawmakers are looking to revise a funding formula that reportedly allows the state's 12 cyber charter schools to pocket more money than their expenses--a formula that has been sore spot with school districts since it was implemented in 2000.

Gettysburg board split on cyber student decision
Gettysburg Times - Gettysburg, PA, USA

Amid conflicting viewpoints among board members, the Gettysburg Area school board passed a motion Monday evening to allow a cyber charter school student to participate in extracurricular speech and debate activities at no cost. The motion passed 4-3, with board members Ron Weaner, Dale Biesecker, Doyle Waybright and Todd Orner voting in the affirmative and Marcia McClain, Terrence McClain and board president Pat Symmes voting no. The boardís policy committee will meet Thursday to begin formulating a policy for future requests, said superintendent Dr. David Mowery.

Virtual High School For Katrina Victims
InternetNews.com - USA

Katrina took their high school down, and their chemistry teacher left town. But 28 students at Pass Christian High School will still get a shot at passing chemistry, thanks to an online course administered by Michigan Virtual High School (MIVH). MIVH spokeswoman Erin Stang wasn't sure how the Mississippi high school administrators found her organization, a non-profit funded by Michigan.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Predictions for 2006 for Virtual Schooling

The guys over at Slashdot - the techie news service, have posted an entry a few days ago that ooks ahead to the coming year and makes some Technology Predictions for 2006? While I usually just skip over this blog in my Bloglines, as it is usually more technical than what I can manageor have an interest in, but this one stuck out at me for some reason.

It may be because around the same time that I saw this entry, I was also preparing a list of trends about virtual schooling - trends about the practice of virtual schooling and I felt that the activities of assessing the current trends of virtual schooling was much like trying to predict what the future year may hold for us in technological advances. For those in the know, both activities involve some level of uncertainty and both items could easily be debated, but in both instances you just have to use what you know about the topic and lay it out there.

In this end, I came up with five trends about the current practice of virtual schooling. They were:
  1. The number of states with virtual schools and the number of students taking virtual school courses is growing.
  2. Virtual schooling is moving from primarily targetting the secondary grades to being available for middle school and elementary school students.
  3. Virtual schools are moving away from their initial focus on advanced level mathematics, science, and other specialty courses to cover a wider variety of the mandated curriculum.
  4. Virtual schooling is becoming more and more popular with students and parents looking for alternatives to the public school system.
  5. Recent research continues to focus upon student performance and the nature of students served by virtual schools.

Now, I thought that since I have this blog and, if you believe the information presented in Statistics for December, a fairly steady readerhip, I wanted to see how on or off base I was with these trends. So...

If you agree with any of these five, which ones do you agree with?

If you disagree with any of these five, which ones do you disagree with and why?

If you feel that I missed one or more, what are they are why should they be included?

I look forward to your response...

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

What is being accomplished?

Nate wrote an entry entitled Happy New Year over at Cognitive Dissonance, where he takes stock of the past year and what he has accomplished with his blog. I thought the idea a good one and decided to do it on some of the blogs that I maintain as well.

This is probably a good time as well, following my statistics post from yesterday. Now that I am well over the 3000 hit mark and getting over 200 visitors a month - granted most of those are from Blogger's "Next Blog" feature, so they aren't actually coming to see my ideas, but there were three dozen returning visitors this past month. So, it begs the question, what purpose does this blog serve? Or more specifically, what am I accomplishing for myself by maintaining this blog?

This is a difficult question for me. When I first started the blog, I used to send out e-mails to people who were involved with or interested in virtual schooling to let them know that I had updated it and posted a new entry. My goal was to try and create a community of individuals who discussed issues surrounding virtual schooling, with the overall goal of improving the quality of virtual schooling - at least among those who were involved in the conversation.

I'm not sure that this has happened. The blog is and seems to remain largely me posting my ideas about various topics dealing with virtual schooling in largely a broadcast way. In the few instances where I have been able to generate some conversation, it has been isolated and usually between me and one other person (I know that this struggle has been the topic of many conversations that Nate and I have been involved in, the most recent one I can think of was from the August Blog-In).

And I can be honest and say the act of writing has helped me capture some of my own thoughts and such, but the reality is that there are probably more productive places for me (as a beginning or hopeful academic) could be writing instead of this blog. I have had some conversations that have helped me understand some issues, one that quickly comes to mind is my better understanding of homeschool students. But in the end, I'm sure that I could have found some article or more knowledgable other and figured it out without the 89 entries that come before this one (and I even have another seven that I have pre-written over the holidays for release in the coming weeks). So, again it begs the question, what am I accomplishing for myself by maintaining this blog?

I'm not sure that I have a good answer... Maybe it is the hope of an answer... The hope of that community that I was envisioning that would take place if the space were created... If you build it, they will come (and participate)...

In the meantime, maybe you can answer a question for me... What am I accomplishing for you by maintaining this blog?

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