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Monday, September 04, 2006

Updates From the Blogsphere

Okay, so my Bloglines account has gotten so full again with things that I wanted to talk about, I'll never get to them all. So, I'm just going to post some of them here now so that you've aware of them and I can add a comment or two about them.

The Relationship Between Homeschooling and Cyberschooling

This is something that continues to divide me. I understand that legislative decisions in many states have created different types of schooling and that supporters of those types of schooling want to ensure that th terms are applied correctly in the popular media to ensure that the right (or at least accurate) message is given to the public. I can understand, appreciate, and even support that.

But as a supporter of public education, I'll be honest and say that I am against the choice movement. I watched this 20/20 thing a couple of nights ago which apparently everyone else in the world had already seen, "Stupid in America", where the opinionist (I can't call him a journalist after watching that piece) was making the case for competition and/or choice in the American education system. In doing so he kept using Belgium as his comparison point because they scored higher on the PISA tests than the United States. Given that the United States, according to the show scored 25th I was left wondering why Belgium. I mean Belgium is a small country with a much more homogenious population in comparison to the United States. It has federal control of education, as opposed to local. Why Belgium, whynot other English-speaking nations like Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, or Canada (which actually placed one higher than Belgium and has a population and system of education much more common to that found in the United States)? The reason is quite clear, none of these country have system of competition or choice in them. In the prologue to the piece, the opinionist detailed the firestorm creaed by the fire airing of his piece and one of the teachers accused him of yellow journalism. Can't say I disagree.

Growth of Virtual Schooling

This is something that I am cautious optimistic about. I'm optimistic because I am a supporter of virtual schooling, I think that it is an excellent way to provide the same quality of education for students who have been disadvantaged by circumstance (i.e., geography, behaviourial, etc.). I am cautious of this growth because there is still a lot that we don't know, and haven't figured out about virtual schooling. For example, in research studies that look at the performance of students in virtual schools compared to students in the classroom, in recent years there has tended to be no difference in performance, which should be a good thing. The problem is that the vast majority of virtual school opportunities are still designed for the more elite students, students that tend to be described as college or university-bound, self-directed, independent, self-motivated students with access to technology and a strong academic support systemat home. This is not the description of your typical K-12 student. This is essentially your top 5% or 10% or 25% of students in your school system.

Now let's go back to the performance issue, if the top X% of students can only do as well in their virtual schooling as all levels of students (including the ones who are in the bottom X%) can do in the classroom, what would happen if we started to let anyone take virtual school courses? This is why I am cautious about this growth, because I don't think we have figured out the answer to that question yet.

New Virtual School and Cyber School Programs

I guess this is along the same lines as the last commentary, cautious optimism. It is interesting to note, however, the variety of ways that virtual schooling is being implement and the diverse populations that are being targetted by each initiative.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am against the choice movement in the aspect that I don't want it to become with hsing appearing to be on of those public school choices. I do think that is happening though in some places.

6:48 AM  
Blogger Kate Logan said...

I agree with your "cautious optimism" in regards to so many new online HS programs coming on board. We are in a rural state with no other online high school in our state. We have constant obstacles/hurdles with our state dept. of education regarding reporting, funding, grading, testing, etc... We are an eCollege client for our LMS and even though they claim to be a learder in the 9-12 arena we have had to spend thousands and thousands of dollars for custom reports because they are geared for higher ed, not public ed.

We are also a client of class.com for most of our courses and while we are pleased with them overall, there is a lot to be desired in some courses. Our health teacher is re-doing one of thier health classes (they only have 2) because it is so boring. The geometry classes are pretty crusty and one of the US history classes is a dog and the other one is great. There are some problems with consistency, especially with courses that follow one another like US History 1A and US History 1B.

I think we have been pretty consertative with how we run our program. We have very few totally virtual students; most of our students are in a school building at least part of their day, our class sizes are small (for the most part), we have recruited very good online instructors, etc... And, we serve an at-risk population, not the top 5-25%.

I'm not sure how all of the other new schools are doing, but I know the amount of time, effort, research, blood, tears, etc... we have put into our little, tiny program and wonder how these other schools are managing.

But I think the entire movement is great. I think this is the right direction to move in high school education public, charter, or private.

Just my 2 cents.

2:35 PM  
Blogger MKB said...

Anonymous,

I'm not sure the proponents of the particular television show were advocating public school choice, I think they were simply advocating K-12 choice - or more accurately competition. While I won't try and put words in their mouths, I believe that these involved in this broadcast would have favoured allowing parents to keep the money when they felt they could homeschool their children to a better education than what they would receive in the public school system.

I won't bother to give my own thoughts on that, but if you've followed my blog before, you can probably guess. But in terms of the specific show I was talking about, I believe those involved would see homeschooling as a legitimate alternative or choice to public schools.

MKB

5:36 PM  
Blogger MKB said...

Kate,

Has your virtual school started the process of localizing its online content (i.e., getting its own people to design and re-design courses that your virtual school owns) so they could stop leasing from class.com at some point?

MKB

5:37 PM  
Blogger Kate Logan said...

We have begun re-writing our courses. We have a few "home-grown" courses, but it is very time consuming to create those courses. (Which I'm sure you well know) Eventually we would like to have all of our own courses, but I don't see that happening for several years. We are beginning our third school year and we have five "home grown" courses. So the prospect of replacing all of the class.com courses with our own is very long term goal.

I wonder how other schools do if they don't purchase thier content? It is so much work to create a very good, engaging HS course.

3:43 PM  
Blogger MKB said...

Kate,

It depends on the model that they use. I know in Newfoundland they had ten courses initially developed and field tested and then developed six more before they went live province-wide. They have over thirty courses now and have never purchased any content.

I know of at least one other American virtual school that began with a couple of home grown and mostly vendor purchased or leased. Each year they try to replace a couple of vendor courses with ones created by their teachers, which isn't difficult, as the teachers tend to like to tinker with the vendor course anyway, so they can take the changes and additions that the teacher makes and simply build the main content around the things the teacher has already done.

So that's two models of how it can be done.

MKB

9:27 PM  

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