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Monday, December 31, 2007

K-12 Online Learning in Ireland

Well, my wife is working tonight so I am home alone and have some time for this entry. The NACOL communications manager posted this to one of their forums earlier today. It is an example of K-12 online learning outside of North America that wanted to share here.
Pupils gain extra course access, Belfast, United Kingdom

Pupils gain extra course access
Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The internet is being employed as a tool to allow pupils at an Ulster grammar school to access vital pieces of coursework at any time of the day or night.

Antrim Grammar School, which has put multiple entries forward in the Belfast Telegraph & Valueoils.com Young Web Designer of the Year competition, has integrated IT into every facet of school life.

Via an extensive intranet system, students can access all coursework from home or even the local library using a secure password.

And for those without home computers, the school is starting a new laptop loan programme where pupils can borrow a computer for a period of time.

The school has developed a strong programme of investment in IT in recent years - all teachers were given laptop computers four years ago and intensive training has taken place to help staff realise the potential of IT usage in the classroom.

The school also installed interactive whiteboards into every single classroom and trained staff in their use, explained Deborah Fitzsimmons, ICT subject leader.

"Research has shown that many schools don't make the most of their interactive whiteboards because teachers don't understand how to use them," she said.

" Because our staff have had their own laptops for years, they have all developed a really keen interest in IT and have taken the training on offer to heart."

The interactive whiteboards are used on a daily basis for a whole range of uses - it can link directly to websites and display the site in this large format for the whole class to see, it is used for map work for geography while the science and maths departments use flipcharts for diagramming.

The whiteboards are interactive so students can work directly on the board and the classwork can be saved for use in another session.

Antrim Grammar's intranet system has been a major bonus for staff and pupils alike. Virtual learning areas have been set up so students can log on and look at the teacher's notes, check homework due dates and also communicate internally.

"We are extending the school outside the confines of the building itself and the normal school day. Students can work outside the normal hours of 9am to 3pm on collaborative projects in a safe online system," said the curriculum vice principal at the school, Victor Hughes.

Antrim Grammar is also working on video commentary which can be downloaded to the school's website.
As I think I've mentioned in the past, virtual schooling is largely a North American concept - specifically in Canada and the United States - at least in he supplemental and full-time programs that we are familiar with. This is a good example of the kind of online learning available in other countries around the world.

For a really good overview of what other countries are doing, I recommend NACOL's:

An International Perspective of K-12 Online Learning: A Summary of the 2006 NACOL International Survey and International Matrix

This survey was conducted by Allison Powell and Susan Patrick, where they contacted individuals in the departments and ministries of education from countries around the world and completed this report based upon the responses that they received. So while there may be some question about this kind of self-report data, it still represents the best global picture that we have to date about the state of K-12 online learning worldwide.

Have a safe and Happy New Year!!!!

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