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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Repost from the AECT BlogTrack - We Don’t Get No Respect!

Keeping this as my regular Wednesday feature for until we conclude the series - I apologoze for all of the re-posted of simply collected content, but I have less than three weeks left to submit my dissertation. Hopefully once I have submitted it I'll be able to get back to some more original content. This entry from the AECT BlogTrack is the first and only entry for the month of September and the twenty-first overall in the re-posts from this series.



Okay, I’ve been sitting on some of these entries for a while in my Bloglines account, and since it has been a while since I posted here and since AECT is coming up in less than a month, I figured I should deal with them.
The first that I’ve wanted to chat about was an entry called Research in Distance Education in Canada that I found at e-Learning Acupuncture. Essentially the entry is about an article in International Review of Research in Open and Distance Education about that status of distance education research in my home country. The author of this entry goes on about the interesting things that can be found in this article (and I’m not disputing that) and somewhat of a commentary on the overall state of research in distance education in general. The problem for me is that when I look through IRRODE or any of the other main distance education journals, I see very little in the way of research that is focused upon a K-12 audience.

This is probably best evidenced by the article described by Darren in his entry on A Review of Research on Teaching Courses Online over at Teaching and Developing Online. This was a recent Review of Educational Research article that we read as a part of our group last year. A comprehensive look at online distance education. Not one mention of the K-12 environment.

Now I understand that virtual schooling has only really be around for a decade, but distance education at the K-12 level in North America has been common in rural areas for the past thirty to thirty-five years. Even online distance education at the K-12 level has been around (although not as extensively) for the past fifteen to twenty years. So, why is the K-12 environment alays dissed?

Maybe it is partly our own fault. I’m only a doctoral student, so I haven’t been at this trying to be an academic thing for that long a period of time. But most of that time my interests have been squarely focused upon distance education at the K-12 level and, specifically, on virtual schooling. For example, I came across this article this past week:

A Comprehensive Look at Distance Education in the K–12 Context
Kerry Lynn Rice
Read more…

And given that I am working on my dissertation and I was sure that if I didn’t include something like this in my chapter two, I’d never be given the chance to defend, I downloaded a copy of it and began to read.
To be honest, I was a little disappointed. The comprehensive look wasn’t that comprehensive at all. The title of the article, and even the abstract, imply that all forms of distance education at the K-12 level would be considered, but the majority of the article looked at online forms of distance education with a real focus on virtual schooling. But even more disappointing than that was in looking through the bibliography and seeing how much was missing.

So I ask, are K-12 distance education researchers partly to blame for the fact that everyone else ignores us, particularly when we also tend to ignore much of our own area of interest?



This was actually one of the few entries that received some discussion.

Kerry Rice Says:
September 28th, 2006 at 3:49 pm

Part of the problem is inherent in the nature of the beast – distance education (DE) as it appears now is vastly different than DE of the past and continues to mutate into forms that we never would have conceived of. Unfortunately, emerging technologies and quickly changing delivery mechanisms result in old terms being used to define new paradigms. (This disconnect itself is quite often illuminated in the research.) Perhaps the use of “virtual” or “online” would have been more appropriate in the title of the article, but my use of the term “Distance Education” was intentional; I was looking at varying models of virtual schools and did not want to give the impression that I was only looking at schools that delivered curriculum through the Internet. Although most do, not all virtual schools use technology to deliver curriculum. For example, Connections Academy, a provider of services for managing virtual schools, uses a text-based curriculum but courses are managed electronically. So we have a conundrum. “Online” and “virtual” are too restrictive and “Distance Education” is too broad.

Another part of the problem, in my opinion, is a missing theoretical construct that is uniformly embraced by the DE research community for framing our work. A theory provides the underlying foundation by which a field is defined and supported. Do we work under the old theories of DE or is our work guided by emerging theories of teaching and learning in this new context of Internet and web-based instruction?

Finally, a part of the problem is simply in the amount of space allotted within a journal. Unfortunately, we are limited in words – in fact for this review I asked for special permission to submit a lengthier article than usually accepted (over twice the number of words). I would argue that the references included in this literature review are quite extensive and present a comprehensive picture of the current state of K-12 distance education…virtual education…e-learning…online education…

mkbvs Says:
September 28th, 2006 at 4:26 pm

Dr. Rice,

Glad that you have joined the conversation (and I welcome you to it whole heartedly), I don’t disagree with a single comment you have made. And since I have you hear, I was hoping to ask you a few questions about your article.

I agree with your comments that a comprehensive look at K-12 distance education would never fit into the confines of most journals and then how one defines online learning or virtual schooling can be problematic because there hasn’t been a lot of consistency in the literature. With regards to this explanation, I was wondering why some of this wasn’t teased out in the article to provide the reader with the realities of the challenges that you were facing with this task. As a doctoral student who has devoted much of the last three years to looking at this topic, I believe that my thouht when reading the title was how will she accomplish that in 3500 words or less, but for someone who hasn’t been in this literature before, they could easily finish your article without the understanding of the caveat that you have just provided.

While you didn’t raise it in your comments, I would argue that another limitation of your task was the nature of how research into distance education at the K-12 level is dissiminated in general. If I used virtual schooling or cyberschooling as an example. A quick search in ProQuest for dissertations containing “virtual school” or “cyberschool” in their title or abstract gives me almosta hundred instances. Yet, in the journals that you list in your introduction I can only think of three articles that have been pubished that have been included. For that matter, if I expand the net to all peer reviewed journals that I know of, I can still only think of about a dozen and a half articles that have been published that would have “virtual school” or “cyberschool” in the title or abstract (and most of those have been by two authors).

When I look at my own literature review for my dissertation, the vast majority of items that I have used related to “virtual school” or “cyberschool” have come from book publishing the experiences of those engaged in providing these oportunities, external evaluations of existing entities, or research sponsored and published by educational laboratories. Where are the articles detailing sound research studies in the American Journal of Distance Education, the Journal of Distance Education, Educational Technology: Research and Development, the Quartlery Review of Distance Education, Open Learning, Distance Education, International Journal of Distance Education, the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, etc.? Unfortunately there simply isn’t much there - which I think was my larger arguement, that the research that is being done isn’t getting published and what is getting published, because there is little conformity in the language and such difficulty in figuring out exactly what is out there, isn’t inclusive because of where it is being published.

However, if someone who was ot familiar with this reality were to pick up your article, I’m not sure they would put it down with the same conclusions.

MKB

Kerry Rice Says:
September 28th, 2006 at 5:38 pm

You raise some very good questions and I honestly wish I had the time necessary to answer each as thoroughly and completely as I would like. Let me say though, that I do make mention of the confusing state of research in the field in my article, but it was my feeling that a long discussion was not appropriate in the context of that journal and would better be served in a different forum.

Regarding the lack of availability of quality research –

First, once again we get into the terminology debate. If you expand your search to include “distance education”, “distance learning” or any of the other descriptors outlined in my introduction, you will undoubtedly generate more articles.

Second, this is a relatively new field and although you may have located “almost a hundred” dissertations concerned with virtual or cyber schools the general research community has simply not caught up. I think we’re in agreement on this point but, although I think research is being done, I don’t believe it’s being conducted on a large scale – the field is simply too new. I also know from personal experience (as do you) that there are very few journals addressing this specific research topic, with the majority decidedly committed to adult distance education.

Third, an interesting discovery that I made during my search for relevant research (and this is something you alluded to as well) was that large educational laboratories like NCREL (Learning Point Associates) and SREB are managing research initiatives in this field and publishing the results within their organizations rather than through the traditional channels. I’m not sure if this is because of the lack of appropriate outlets or if this is the wave of the future.

This has been an interesting discussion and I appreciate the opportunity to contribute my “two cents.” Thanks and I wish you well with BlogTracks!



Care to add your own comments?

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Virtual Schooling in the News

Beginning with the Yahoo! News Alert for virtual school.

Board to decide on virtual school
Billings Gazette Mon, 19 Mar 2007 10:22 AM PDT

GILLETTE - The Campbell County school board plans to decide by month's end whether to continue a pilot virtual elementary school even though the state has not committed funding for the program.

Parents see benefits in virtual schools
Journal and Courier Sun, 18 Mar 2007 11:08 PM PDT

Peggy Edmundson worries about what her son, Tre, is learning in first grade at Vinton Elementary School. It's not the lessons in the classroom that concern her. It's what he might pick up from the other kids.

Some parents bemoan gap in Missouri virtual school
KY3 Springfield Wed, 21 Mar 2007 12:44 PM PDT

The online free program starts in the fall for elementary and high school students in the state.

Middle school students left out of the virtual classroom
Columbian Missourian Wed, 21 Mar 2007 10:34 PM PDT

JEFFERSON CITY ? For the first time this fall Missouri will offer hundreds of students a chance to take online courses for free throughout the state. But many parents are upset because middle school students will be left out for now.

Nevada Connections Academy Approved to Open for 2007-2008 School Year
PR Newswire via Yahoo! Finance Thu, 22 Mar 2007 5:00 AM PDT

Nevada students will have an exciting new public school alternative this fall that delivers exceptional schooling to students in a unique distance education "school without walls."

Online education slow to load
The Springfield News-Leader Thu, 22 Mar 2007 1:12 AM PDT

Jefferson City -- Missouri, for the first time this fall, will offer hundreds of students a chance to take online courses for free throughout the state. But many parents are upset because middle-school students will be left out for now.

K12 Inc. to Provide Curriculum and School Services to the New Nevada Virtual Academy
U.S. Newswire via Yahoo! News Fri, 23 Mar 2007 5:27 AM PDT

Following approval from the Nevada State Board of Education on Saturday, March 17, 2007, the Nevada Virtual Academy became the newest statewide public virtual school to use the nationally-acclaimed curriculum and school services provided by K12 Inc.

Next, the Yahoo! News Alert for cyber school.

Cyber-school empire under attack
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sat, 17 Mar 2007 9:24 PM PDT

Read this article ]

OJR wants more accountability for cyber schools
The Mercury Tue, 20 Mar 2007 0:01 AM PDT

SOUTH COVENTRY -- Owen J. Roberts School District officials are pushing for better accountability for cyber charter schools.

K12 Inc. to Provide Curriculum and School Services to the New Nevada Virtual Academy
U.S. Newswire via Yahoo! News Fri, 23 Mar 2007 5:27 AM PDT

Following approval from the Nevada State Board of Education on Saturday, March 17, 2007, the Nevada Virtual Academy became the newest statewide public virtual school to use the nationally-acclaimed curriculum and school services provided by K12 Inc.

Board votes no
Herald Standard Fri, 23 Mar 2007 9:43 PM PDT

MAPLETOWN - Southeastern Greene School Board on Thursday voted against entering into a cyber school pilot program being researched by Intermediate Unit 1.

Moving to the Google News Alert for virtual school.

Trustees to decide fate of virtual school
Gillette News Record - Gillette WY,USA

School trustees must decide in the coming weeks whether to continue the Wyoming Virtual School — and possibly expand it — next year despite a lack of state ...[See all stories on this topic]

Online high school courses available
Sioux City Journal - Sioux City,IA,USA

The 2006 Legislature passed a measure directing the Education Department to open a virtual school. A seven-member council helped set policies. ... [See all stories on this topic]

Hit reset on state's virtual voucher
St. Petersburg Times - St. Petersburg,FL,USA

The K-8 virtual school voucher was written into the budget four years ago after lobbyists for online education companies persuaded lawmakers to experiment. ... [See all stories on this topic]

Virtual school: Grades K-8 may be held online
Salt Lake Tribune - Salt Lake City,UT,USA

While the new "school" is still in the planning stages, the time is right for its virtual doors to open, officials say. "We feel we're a little bit late and ... [See all stories on this topic]

Virtual High School classes open
Sioux Falls Argus Leader - Sioux Falls,SD,USA

The 2006 Legislature directed the Education Department to open a virtual school. A seven-member council helped set policies. The department worked with the ... [See all stories on this topic]

Virtual Public Schools: Visions, Problems and Solutions – Part I
American Chronicle - Beverly Hills,CA,USA

Are two new virtual school openings a step closer to the fulfillment of national school choice envisioned by the US Chamber of Commerce? ... [See all stories on this topic]

Satyam Launches Virtual Learning World
India PRwire (Press Release) - India

In developing its integrated SLW approach, Satyam partnered with The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, Harvard Business School Publishing, ... [See all stories on this topic]

Parents see benefits in virtual schools
Journal and Courier - Lafayette,IN,USA

Ron Brumbarger, CEO of Indianapolis-based Indiana Virtual Charter School, said because of that lack of building, some people don't see the need for funding... [See all stories on this topic]

Board to decide on virtual school
Billings Gazette - Billings,MT,USA

GILLETTE - The Campbell County school board plans to decide by month's end whether to continue a pilot virtual elementary school even though the state has ...[See all stories on this topic]

Online class popularity soars
Palm Beach Post - Palm Beach,FL,USA

Four years ago, about 800 Palm Beach County students enrolled in courses in the Florida Virtual School, a statewide online teaching program based in Orlando ... [See all stories on this topic]

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Blogging About Virtual Schooling

Okay, so entries from my Bloglines accounts for the past couple of weeks.

Until next time...

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Repost from the AECT BlogTrack - Is Being A Digital Native A Good Thing?

Okay, let's try and make these a regular Wednesday feature for the next few weeks and that should be enough to conclude the series. This entry from the AECT BlogTrack is the third and final entry for the month of August and the twentieth overall in the re-posts from this series.



Since we started this Blog Track, I’ve written a fair amount about digital natives (see More On Digital Natives) for the most recent entry. Most of what I have written about has focused upon whether or not there is such a thing as digital natives. This past week I’ve read some entries posted by Ian Jukes at the The Committed Sardine Blog that have me asking a different question. The entries that caught my attention were:

So, assuming that digital natives exist (and if you haven’t read the earlier stuff I think that they do) my new and I think more important question is:

Is the fact that our children today are hard wired differently today a good thing?

I ask because much of the thought behind being a digital native rests on this notion of constant passive attention. Is this constant passive attention manifesting itself in negative ways, doing more harm to our children than good.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Virtual Schooling in the News

Beginning with the Yahoo! news alert for virtual schooling.

Virtual courses catching on at Maine high schools
Boston Globe Sun, 11 Mar 2007 12:22 PM PDT

A growing number of Maine high school students are taking courses where their classmates -- and their teachers -- are in other states and countries.

Virtual school trips abroad
Yorkshire Post Today Mon, 12 Mar 2007 3:09 AM PDT

School trips abroad could become a virtual reality for thousands of children under Government plans to encourage teachers to use technology to link with pupils in other countries. (12/03/2007 09:50:07)

Virtual Courses Catching On At Maine High Schools
WMTW Auburn Mon, 12 Mar 2007 8:36 AM PDT

A growing number of Maine high school students are taking courses in which their classmates -- and their teachers -- are in other states and countries.

Virtual schools may never 'open'
Post-Tribune Mon, 12 Mar 2007 2:20 AM PDT

A bill going before the Senate this week could close two new virtual charter schools before they open this fall. That leaves Northwest Indiana parents concerned -- many have registered children.

Senate gives key approval to virtual schools bill
WIS News 10 Columbia Tue, 13 Mar 2007 3:48 PM PDT

(Columbia-AP) March 13, 2007 - The Senate gave key approval Tuesday to a bill that would allow students in public, private and home schools to take online courses for high school credit.

Virtualschoolgets OK
The Post and Courier Wed, 14 Mar 2007 4:16 AM PDT

COLUMBIA - State Sen. Chip Campsen helped design a compromise that enabled the South Carolina Virtual School Program to gain key approval in the Senate on Tuesday. The deal gives private and home-schooled students equal access to proposed online remedial, advanced placement and specialty classes.

Virtual High School takes learning online
Arizona Daily Star Thu, 15 Mar 2007 0:10 AM PDT

Starting next fall, Immaculate Heart High School will begin to offer a select number of students elective courses in subjects such as DNA technology, screenwriting fundamentals and criminology.

Satyam Computers to invest USD 8 mn for virtual learning .:. NewKerala.Com, India News Channel
New Kerala Thu, 15 Mar 2007 10:35 AM PDT

Mumbai, Mar 15: Satyam Computers Services will invest eight million dollars over the next five years to implement an organisation-wide virtual learning environment, including training, competence development and performance evaluation.

Virtual school: Grades K-8 may be held online
The Salt Lake Tribune Thu, 15 Mar 2007 11:42 PM PDT

Elementary school students in Utah soon may be able to go to school without ever having to leave home. Given the success of the state's electronic high school, Utah education officials hope to expand their online offerings to students from kindergarten through eighth grade. While the new "school" is still in the planning stages, the time is right for its virtual doors to open, officials say.

Virtual High School classes open
The Argus Leader Sat, 17 Mar 2007 0:11 AM PDT

Teenagers may now hop online to earn credit for studying in cyberspace.

Moving on to the Google News Alert for virtual school.

Education officials downplay low marks
Omaha World-Herald (subscription) - Omaha,NE,USA

A virtual school provides lesson plans and educational materials for K-12 students and broadcasts instructional programming on the Web. ... [See all stories on this topic]

Virtual schools may never 'open'
Gary Post Tribune - Gary,IN,USA

We have a lot of support and there's a huge demand from parents. People are very excited ... there's just this myth about what a virtual school is." [See all stories on this topic]

Scholarships Offered to Every Michigan Public and Private High ...
SYS-CON Media - Montvale,NJ,USA

These courses have been developed and are being delivered through a partnership of MSU's Confucius Institute, Michigan Virtual School, China Central Radio ... [See all stories on this topic]

Indiana Virtual Charter School Announces Statewide Outreach to ...
Muncie Free Press - Muncie,IN,USA

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - Beginning next week, the Indiana Virtual Charter School (INVCS) will conduct a massive statewide outreach effort to families interested ... [See all stories on this topic]

New schools create choices
North Thompson Star - Barriere,British Columbia,Canada

The next decision was about the Virtual School currently housed at the Henry Grube Education Centre in Kamloops. The Virtual School first started with as ... [See all stories on this topic]

Interest Grows For State's First Virtual Charter School
Inside INdiana Business (press release) - Indianapolis,IN,USA

Indiana Virtual Charter School Board of Trustees Chair Ron Brumbarger tells our partners at Network Indiana/WIBC that those families that are chosen will ... [See all stories on this topic]

Virtual school trips abroad
Yorkshire Post Today - Leeds,Yorkshire,UK

School trips abroad could become a virtual reality for thousands of children under Government plans to encourage teachers to use technology to link with ... [See all stories on this topic]

Indiana Virtual Charter School announces statewide outreach to ...
Lafayette Online News - Lafayette,IN,USA

On February 2, 2007, the Ball State University Office of Charter Schools approved the Indiana Virtual Charter School. The school will serve up to 1500 ... [See all stories on this topic]

Finally, the Google News Alert for cyber school.

Questions linger on cyber audits
Oil City Derrick - Oil City,PA,USA

Two of the 18 are for cyber charters - SUSQ-Cyber Charter School and Western Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, now known as PA Cyber Charter School. ... [See all stories on this topic]

Until next week...

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Repost from the AECT BlogTrack - Struggling with Virtual Schooling Issues

A busy week this week in terms of posting. This entry from the AECT BlogTrack is the second entry for the month of August and the nineteenth overall in the re-posts from this series.




A colleague of mine, Derek Wenmoth, has posted an entry to his blog (see Derek’s Blog) which I think is particularly interesting. The entry, Tackling online learning in our secondary schools, talks about some thngs going on down in New Zealand in K-12 online learning and then proceeds to ask a long series of questions to specific groups of individuals involved in almost every aspect of K-12 schooling. His questions include:

General Issues
  • Is what we are doing truly learner-centric?
  • Are we simply replicating the practices of the f2f classroom?
  • How can we get policy change to provide the flexibility we require?
  • Is our view of the technology future-proofed?
  • Where is the evidence that what we are doing is supporting the claims we are making?

Policy issues

  • How can student funding be shared between schools?
  • How can staffing, including management units, be shared among schools?
  • What evidence needs to be gathered to demonstrate the worth of this?

Technology issues

  • Connectivity and interoperability – who sets the standards?
  • Networks – VPNs or MUSH etc?
  • Bridging – what is required? What technologies must be supported?
  • Scheduling – enable direct access and school level control?

Curriculum issues

  • assessment – developing consistency in approach
  • reporting – enabling a unified student report from several ‘schools’ etc
  • modularisation – a different view of ‘course’
  • RPL – includes recognising the value of informal learning

Staffing issues

  • Creating more flexibility in recognising teacher roles: e-teachers, m-teachers, c-teachers
  • How to involve those with real subject expertise as mentors, hotseats etc?

Pedagogical issues

  • “personalisation” – what does it mean? How do we make it happen?
  • staff training – how to train a large group of the teaching force in these new approaches?

Leadership and coordination issues

  • Where does the leadership come from?
  • What form should leadership take?
  • What coordination is required nationally, locally etc?

Learning Resource issues

  • How best to provide resources for learning to support teachers in this environment?
  • Learning objects, repositories, search tools – who provides them, who manages them etc?
  • How to cater for user-generated resources?
  • Copyright and IP issues – how are these to be managed?

Quality issues

  • What is best practice?
  • What are quality indicators?

What is most interesting about this list of questions/issues is that even though Canada and the United States are about a half a decade ahead of New Zealand and Australia when it comes to K-12 online learning or virtual schooling, I don’t think that we have really tackled many of these issues on this side of the Pacific pond yet either.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

More Blogging About This Next Generation

You'll note that from time to time in the past, and particularly as an on-going topic in the re-posts from the AECT Blogtrack series, I've taken up the issue of the difference between this current generation and generations that have come before them. Well, here are what some others in the blog sphere think about the topic.

This is a topic that still interests me, as I know that there is no credible research to support any differences other than an increased sense of entitlement in this most recent generation, but I wonder what effects the perceived differences have on teaching and learning.

Which leads me to this next entry, which I guess is at the crux of this issue, if there is no research to actually support this notion that digital natives do exists (at least from a generational standpoint), then the next logical step is...

Do you agree? If so, what does that mean for virtual schooling?

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Blogging About Virtual Schooling

Okay, time to clean out my Bloglines account again...

Until I feel that my Bloglines is getting too big again...

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Virtual Schooling in the News

Beginning with the Yahoo! news alert for cyber school.

Frazier not to participate
Herald Standard Fri, 02 Mar 2007 9:18 PM PST

PERRYOPOLIS - The Frazier School District will not participate in a cyber services pilot program being implemented next year by Intermediate Unit 1, but supported the goal to bring students back into their respective Fayette County school districts.

Rift hits new heights
The Beaver County Times Fri, 02 Mar 2007 6:31 PM PST

BEAVER - An ongoing legal battle between the Midland cyberschool and its former management company hit new heights this week when the company filed another suit, claiming the school has been using and selling company-owned online courses worth millions of dollars.

Moving on to the Yahoo! news alert for virtual school.

Virtual schools bill hits unexpected snag
The State Mon, 05 Mar 2007 4:01 AM PST

The first major education initiative expected to pass the General Assembly this session has encountered unexpected controversy. A bill that would pave the way for statewide virtual schools — in which students stay home and learn online — has hit a snag among lawmakers who want to provide greater opportunities for private- and home-schooled students.

ABOUT VIRTUAL SCHOOLS
The State Sun, 04 Mar 2007 9:31 PM PST

Virtual courses allow students to log in anytime, from anywhere. They include online textbooks, video demonstrations, exercises, homework assignments and exams. Teachers correspond with students via e-mail, live chat, video conference or telephone. Major exams often are proctored by approved adults. Proponents say virtual schools:

Public Virtual School An Option for Students
WISH-TV Indianapolis Tue, 06 Mar 2007 12:54 PM PST

INDIANAPOLIS - Parents have a new option when it comes to choosing a school for their children, a new public virtual school. Tuesday morning at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis board members, teachers

Indiana Virtual Charter School Announces Statewide Outreach to Hoosier Families With Over 200 Events
U.S. Newswire via Yahoo! News Tue, 06 Mar 2007 12:30 PM PST

Beginning next week, the Indiana Virtual Charter School (INVCS) will conduct a massive statewide outreach effort to families interested in enrolling in the state's new public virtual school.

Parents can get information about virtual charter school
The Star Press Tue, 06 Mar 2007 0:31 AM PST

MUNCIE -- The Indiana Connections Academy (INCA) will have an information session for parents who want to learn more about the new, tuition-free, full-time, virtual public charter school for students in grades K-11. Students will be able to enroll in the spring for the 2007-2008 school year.

Local students sign up for virtual school
Post-Tribune Tue, 06 Mar 2007 2:07 AM PST

Amy Haaland, of Merrillville, describes her son as a bright boy, so skilled he's bored in school. James Haaland-Johnson, 13, wants flexibility and an environment open to his whims.

Virtual charter schools celebrated and targeted
The Indianapolis Star Wed, 07 Mar 2007 6:57 AM PST

The head of Indiana's first virtual charter school celebrated what he called its "birthday" Tuesday with parents and supporters during a launch at The Children's Museum.

Online charter school gives parents new option
WTHR Indianapolis Tue, 06 Mar 2007 3:24 PM PST

One of Indiana's newest schools doesn't have a campus. There's no classroom, basketball court or even a principal's office. The Indiana Virtual Charter School exists only on the internet and in the homes and minds of its students. It is the first all-internet school in the state.

School's out — in cyberspace
The Indianapolis Star Tue, 06 Mar 2007 1:56 PM PST

Online 'virtual' charter schools almost ready to open; teachers union says law doesn't allow them.

Twenty open enrollment requests came from students at Midway School
The Rhinelander Daily News Wed, 07 Mar 2007 12:16 PM PST

Of the 47 students who request open enrollment into the School District of Rhinelander, more than 20 are students who are currently enrolled at the Midway School in Gleason which will close at the end of this school year.

Parents discuss ‘virtual charter’
Fort Wayne News-Sentinel Thu, 08 Mar 2007 4:47 AM PST

Public school or private school? Charter school or magnet school? What about home schooling? As if Indiana parents didn’t have enough to think about when it comes to their children’s education, add one more option to the list: a virtual charter school.

Online charter school hoping legislators log back on
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette Thu, 08 Mar 2007 3:00 AM PST

Officials with one of Indiana’s first online-based charter schools say they are optimistic the General Assembly will not pass a budget that deems it illegal for their school to operate.

More districts offering desks in virtual classrooms
Dallas Morning News Thu, 08 Mar 2007 0:58 AM PST

The latest trend in schools lets kids wear whatever and attend classes whenever.

Online schooling experiences virtual enrollment explosion
Detroit News Wed, 07 Mar 2007 10:53 PM PST

After Ben Hathaway's father was called to active duty in the Army National Guard, the 15-year-old had to help his family tend the 130 head of cattle on their 345-acre farm in Leoma, Tenn.

Panel: Bolster online schools
Denver Post Fri, 09 Mar 2007 0:23 AM PST

Colorado should boost spending for virtual-school students and encourage districts to serve more kids online, a state Board of Education task force recommended Thursday.

Study Find Flaws in Virtual Academy Programs
FOX 12 Idaho Thu, 08 Mar 2007 8:47 PM PST

Boise, Idaho-- Learning on-line instead of at traditional elementary and high schools has become so popular Idaho legislators are concerned. Thousands of Idaho kids now learn on-line with computers, books and some help from their parents.

Scholarships Offered to Every Michigan Public and Private High School for Online Chinese Course
U.S. Newswire via Yahoo! News Fri, 09 Mar 2007 1:31 PM PST

The Confucius Institute at Michigan State University and Michigan Virtual School (MVS) are pleased to announce that they are offering a free semester of online instruction of Mandarin Chinese to one student from every public and private high school in the state. The courses will be offered in spring and fall semesters of 2007 and 2008.

Moving on to the Google News Alert for cyber school.

Frazier not to participate
Uniontown Herald Standard - Uniontown,PA,USA

Tom Shetterly, business manager, said Frazier spends about $139000 per year for cyber school tuition, amounting to $7100 per student, while only being ... [See all stories on this topic]

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Repost from the AECT BlogTrack - Virtual Schooling Evaluations

Well, I had hoped to get this out earlier in the week, but oh well... This entry from the AECT BlogTrack is the first entry for the month of August and the eighteenth overall in the re-posts from this series.




One of the more commons ways that research has been conducted on virtual schooling has been through the process of conducting evaluations. In May and June I posted a series that outlined the research studies that I have conducted with virtual schools, specifically the Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation. In that discussion I failed to mention one of the more recent evaluations that I conducted. While it was two years ago now that it began and about a year ago that it concluded, it is worth mentioning here and discussing what I found.

Evaluation of the Illinois Virtual High School Course Development Process

The purpose of this evaluation was primarily formative, i.e., to provide the client with the reliable information needed to improve the course development process utilized by the IVHS. When the IVHS was first established, it relied heavily on packaged courses from external vendors to quickly populate their course offerings. Over the past five years, the IVHS has continued to rely on external vendors but has also developed courses, using teachers as subject matter experts and course authors, and external design and production staff (eCollege) to support their efforts.

Unfortunately, there was great variability between each of IVHS’ offerings. The productized nature of vendor-based courses led to uniform navigation, interface, and instruction but only within a single vendor’s offerings; IVHS’ multiple vendors deployed different models. Also, despite the shared experience of the design tutorial and the support of a core team, IVHS course authors’ development was executed with more of a course-by-course approach, introducing even greater variability. Over time, IVHS has worked to alter the course development process and deliverables and provide greater design support to course authors. As the IVHS begins to develop more of its courses internally, particularly using this new tool, and its total number of course offerings continue to grow, consistency within and between courses will become more important.
Overall, course developers are pleased with their experience in developing courses for the IVHS. The IVHS has had fourteen of their thirty-three developers design more than one course. A majority of those developers who were surveyed would develop yet another course if asked and would also recommend course development to a friend or colleague. This is indicative of the fact that the developers are generally pleased with their course development experience.

The IVHS course development process is fairly open-ended with a lot of room for developers to create the kind of course that they want to create. Compared to the course development process of other virtual schools, the IVHS is very open-ended. Developers with the IVHS are given pretty much a carte blanche for the structure and style of their courses, whereas developers with other virtual schools are typically expected to work within a structured template. This reality has resulted in many different “looks” and “feels” to the IVHS courses, to the point where there is so little consistency between courses that it is entirely possible for a student to feel like they are actually taking courses from two separate entities. In addition, the IVHS appear to provide their developers with guidance from both the IVHS and eCollege on an ad hoc or as needed basis and payment is made upon completion of the course, whereas the contracts for development utilized by other virtual schools spell out specific deliverables by specific dates for a specific portion of the overall payment (which is actually two to three times the amount offered by the IVHS).

Also, the vast majority, if not all of the course developers for the IVHS are former or practicing teachers with little experience in the design and development of structured learning activities outside of their own classroom. While this has been a positive aspect of the course development process, as these individuals bring a wealth of classroom experience into the development of their virtual courses, it is also provide many challenges for these developers. Many of the developers expressed concern about the lack of guidance provided by both the IVHS and eCollege in terms of how to go about creating their courses to what to include in their courses to formatting issues. However, many of the developers also commented on the helpfulness of the people at the IVHS and eCollege in their course development process.

Approximately half of the IVHS courses were developed by a team of two or more developers and this has worked well in some instances and not so well in others. From 2001-02 to 2003-04, the IVHS has fifteen of their thirty-seven courses developed by a team of developers. In instances where the two or more developers got along, the partnership appeared to work well and even some of the individual developers commented on the usefulness of having more than one developer. However, there were instances where a team of developers simply did not get along or they had differences of opinion in terms of what the course should include. In these instances, the two parts of the final course were very different in their style and substance, and even in the nature of the content of the course. In addition, these teams did not benefit from the act of two professionals coming together to develop a shared product.

The course developers for the IVHS were trained as teachers and unable to utilize the technology of the web to its fullest capacity. It was state earlier that the vast majority, if not all of the course developers for the IVHS are former or practicing teachers with little experience in the design and development of structured learning activities outside of their own classroom. Many of these individuals also possessed few of the technical skills that could be used to really enhance their courses by taking full advantage of the medium of the World Wide Web. In other course development processes technical experts were hired in addition to subject matter experts to develop the courses. In these course development systems, a course developer who had shown themselves as capable with the technology could be offered a full contract, while others who were only able to handle the content were offered two thirds of a contract with the remaining third going to someone to specifically design the multimedia content of the course.

Overall, the course developers reported to having a relatively positive experience in designing their courses for the IVHS, however, there were also a number of suggestions for improvement in the system. There were five main recommendations that came from the data generated as a part of this evaluation.
  1. Create a structure for the course development process so that the IVHS, eCollege, and the developer are under the same impressions when it comes to the nature of the assistance that can be provided and the expectations of all parties within the specific deadlines of the course development process.
  2. Divide the course development process into timed segments that describe the nature of the deliverable due at the end of each period, with partial payment for the successful delivery of each of the segments.
  3. If the IVHS continues to use a team of developers for a single course, determine a method of select team members that will work well together.
  4. Provide training in multimedia software for course developers or split the course development process so that technical developers can add multimedia components to courses after the content has been developed.
  5. Any tool used to guide the development of course developers needs to be open enough to allow for the creativity of the developer.
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Monday, March 05, 2007

Virtual Schooling Resources

A colleague of mine, Dr. Catherine Cavanaugh, has created a resource entitled Virtual Schools and K-12 Distance Learning Research References. It is available at:

Take a look and if you think she's missing something, feel free to e-mail her with suggestions.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Virtual Schooling in the News

There was more here, but somehow Blogger lost it.

Anyway, from the Yahoo! news alert for virtual school.

Indiana Connections Academy to Hold Information Sessions for Area Families
U.S. Newswire via Yahoo! News Thu, 01 Mar 2007 7:41 AM PST

The Indiana Connections Academy (INCA), one of the state's leading providers of virtual education for grades K-11, will be holding a series of free information sessions throughout Indiana for parents who want to learn more about the new, tuition-free, full- time, virtual public charter school. INCA will be accepting students from anywhere in the state beginning in spring 2007 for the 2007-2008 ...

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Repost from the AECT BlogTrack - More On Digital Natives

This entry from the AECT BlogTrack is the third and final entry for the month of July and the seventeenth overall in the re-posts from this series.



Continuing on this theme of digital natives (see What Are Virtual Schools Doing For Digital Natives? for the most recent post), let’s get back to this issue of whether or not they exist and how they are defined. When I look around the blogsphere I see entries like:

One of the more interesting blog entries I’ve seen comes from the horse’s mouth, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants: Origins of Terms from Marc Prensky’s Weblog.

Even in my own writing, in a recent manuscript that I am working on I wrote (and please excuse the notes to self included):

The covers of Time and Newsweek for the last week of March and first week of April 2006 read “Are Kids Too Wired for Their Own Good?” and “Putting the ‘We” in Web” respectively. The idea that today’s students are somehow different than previous generations and these differences are caused by access digital technology, such as the Internet and cell phones, is becoming common theme in both the popular media and is even being introduced in the academic literature (although there has been little actual research reported or conducted into these perceived differences). One of the first to discuss this in the literature, Tapscott (1998) labels these students the Net Generation. Basing his categories on David Foote’s 1996 book Boom, Bust, and Echo, Tapscott includes the echo generation or those born after 1977 as being a part of this Net Generation. While Tapscott acknowledges that not all of those born during this time frame have access to the Internet yet, he claims that they all have “some degree of fluency with digital media” (p. 3).

Similar to Tapscott, Howe and Strauss (2000) have also given the next generation a label based on a specific date of birth: millennials. [Add in sentence or two about the millennials once I get that recalled book] On the other hand, Dede (2005) groups these students – which he calls neomillennials – based upon a set of learning characteristics and can include the next generation of students that we now see in our educational institutions, but also baby boomers, Generation X’ers, or the children of the echo. The learning characteristics that he believes makes these students different include:

  • fluency in multiple media and in simulation-based virtual settings,
  • communal learning involving diverse, tacit, situated experience, with knowledge distributed across a community and a context as well as within an individual,
  • a balance among experiential learning, guided mentoring, and collective reflection,
    expression through nonlinear, associational webs of representations, and
  • co-design of learning experiences personalized to individual needs and preferences. (¶ 2)

While these various labels have been introduced over the past decade, most have not caught on outside of their immediate fields, with the exception of the label “digital native”.

Prensky (2001) has dubbed this next generation digital natives, as he feels that they “are all ‘native speakers’ of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet” (¶ 5), with those of us who are not native to this digital language are considered digital immigrants. Today’s teenager has grown up with digital technology (e.g., cell phones, video games, computers, DVD players, video cameras, MP3 players, etc.) around them since birth, and according to Prensky (2006) the average kid by the time they have graduated from college has “spent fewer than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but often more than 10,000 hours playing video games, another 10,000 on their cell phones, and more than 20,000 watching television” (pp. 27-28). While he doesn’t provide a specific date, like Tapscott, Howe, and Strauss, Prensky alludes to the fact that this generation of digital natives began at a specific time – in the same way that an immigrant is one who comes to an existing place, these natives were born during the digital age.

So, I guess this boils back down to some fundamental questions:

  1. Are today’s students actually different than previous generations?
  2. Are these differences physical (i.e., are they actually wired differently)?
  3. How do we define these differences?
  4. What do we do about these differences?

Selected Bibliography (University of Chicago formatting):

Dede, Chris. “Planning for Neomillennial Learning Styles,” EDUCAUSE Quarterly 28. (2005): http://www.educause.edu/pub/eq/eqm05/eqm0511.asp

Foote, David K. and Daniel Stoffman. Boom Bust & Echo: Profiting from the Demographic Shift in the 21st Century. Toronto, ON: Stoddart Publishing Co., 2000.

Prensky, Marc. “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants – Part II: Do They Really Think Differently?,” On the Horizon 9, no. 6 (December 2001): http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/default.asp.

Prensky, Marc. “Don’t bother me mom – I’m learning!” (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2006), 27-28.

Tapscott, Don. Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation (New York: McGraw Hill Inc., 1998), 3.

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