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Sunday, February 03, 2008

We're Moving!!!

Well, it is official... I am moving my blog Virtual High School Meanderings from Blogger to Word Press. I have secured the domain:

I made the decision to change hosting sites for a couple of reasons.
  1. The domain http://virtualschooling.wordpress.com/ is better than http://mkbnl.blogspot.com
  2. Word Press is a better blogging system than Blogger in my opinion, as it has:
    • Internal statistics
    • Ability to add pages in addition to entry
    • The calendar feature on the site
    • Both labels (which Blogger has) and internal tags to Technorati (which I had to do manually in Blogger)
So after almost three years, I'm moving.

It is one month shy of three years ago I began this blog with the entry Welcome to my Blog on Virtual High Schools. I selected Blogger at the time because I was new to blogging and with the help of Nathan Lowell I got started. I added Haloscan so that I could keep trackbacks (and used the Wizbang Standalone Trackback Pinger to send them). To increase traffic I registered with BlogShares, BlogInSpace, BlogExplosion, BlogsCanada, FeedBurner, and Technorati.

But now I'm moving and I hope that my readers will follow. So, if you are physically coming to this blog, please re-direct your browser to http://virtualschooling.wordpress.com/. If you're reading this in an RSS reader, please update your feed to http://virtualschooling.wordpress.com/.

Hope to see you at my new location:

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2008 MVU Symposium

So, I'm finding out about this a little late, and unfortunately I teach Wednesday evenings, but maybe some others will be able to attend and let me know how it went.
The 2008 MVU Symposium, held Feb. 6, 2008 at the Marriott Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest Conference Center in Ypsilanti, is a forum for K-12 school administrators, school board members, technology directors and others to explore the growth and impact of online learning. To learn more about this event and how to register, please visit our website at http://www.mivu.org/symposium.

The symposium will feature state and national speakers, and a variety of presentations aimed at showcasing solutions to everyday challenges in education, including meeting the Michigan Merit Curriculum requirements, helping students succeed online, and discussing online learning solutions for urban schools, accessibility issues, network access considerations and more.
I may still try and get to this all the same, as my class is meeting synchronous using Wimba this Wednesday. We'll see...

I should note that I found out about this on the MACUL space on NING.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Virtual Schooling in the News

Beginning with the ASCD SmartBrief.

States take closer look at virtual schools
With around 500,000 children in the U.S. attending online classes, including some 90,000 who attend virtual charter schools full-time, states are taking a second look at the funding and oversight of such programs. "After some inquiry most states have said, 'Yes, we like online learning, but these are such new ways of teaching children that we'll need to change some regulations and get some more oversight,'" said Colorado consultant John Watson, who surveys online schools annually. The New York Times (2/1)

Back to the Yahoo! News Alert for virtual school.

Support grows for virtual education
Fond du Lac Reporter Mon, 28 Jan 2008 2:29 AM PST
Domingo Alonzo said leaving public school in favor of a virtual education changed his life.

UK Gov't welcomes virtual PE
GameSpot Mon, 28 Jan 2008 9:07 AM PST
After a trial scheme 'significantly increased' kids' energy expenditure, the Wii may become a permanent part of school-based exercise in the future.

District makes plans for virtual classroom
phillyburbs.com Wed, 30 Jan 2008 5:40 AM PST
QUAKERTOWN SCHOOLS - The district plans to offer virtual classes - courses that students couldn't otherwise get in a typical school setting.

Virtual schooling being explored in the Jersey Shore Area district
Williamsport Sun Gazette Mon, 28 Jan 2008 9:14 PM PST
JERSEY SHORE — With charter and cyber charter schools costing the Jersey Shore Area School District about $603,845 this school year, and trends showing that cost is likely to escalate, the school board on Monday opened up discussions on starting a virtual school within the district.

Virtual school may yet be fact
The Daily News Transcript Thu, 31 Jan 2008 7:05 AM PST
A program that would allow select high school students to take online courses remains in limbo.

Online high school opens virtual doors
Newport News-Times Fri, 01 Feb 2008 9:27 AM PST
Insight School of Oregon (ISO) - a full-time, online, diploma-granting, public charter high school authorized by the Lincoln County School District (LCSD) and governed by the local Oregon Council for Online Learning (OCOL) - opened its virtual doors Jan. 28 for spring semester.

Next the Yahoo! News Alert for cyber school.

Virtual schooling being explored in the Jersey Shore Area district
Williamsport Sun Gazette Mon, 28 Jan 2008 9:13 PM PST
JERSEY SHORE — With charter and cyber charter schools costing the Jersey Shore Area School District about $603,845 this school year, and trends showing that cost is likely to escalate, the school board on Monday opened up discussions on starting a virtual school within the district.

Moving on to the Google News Alert for virtual school.

Wis. lawmakers announce deal to keep virtual schools open
Chippewa Herald - Chippewa Falls,WI,USA
... an appeals court in December ordered the state to stop funding the Wisconsin Virtual Academy, the state's largest virtual school with 800 students. ...
See all stories on this topic

Madison Weekly
Green Bay Press Gazette - Green Bay,WI,USA
While a recent court ruling threatened to shutter about a dozen of the schools statewide, including a virtual school in Appleton, lawmakers recently ...
See all stories on this topic

Cram to pass online school bill
Wisconsin State Journal - Madison,WI,USA
The bill announced Thursday would establish new virtual school standards that would allow the schools to remain open. The standards would address the court ...
See all stories on this topic

Cyber high proposed in Seymour
Connecticut Post - Bridgeport,CT,USA
In her proposed 2008-09 budget, Supt. of Schools Mary Anne Mascolo included funding for slots in the Virtual High School program. ...
See all stories on this topic

Virtual High School
WCAX - Burlington,VT,USA
Burlington High School is one of ten Vermont schools that participate in a program called Virtual High School. That means this classroom is all but empty ...
See all stories on this topic

Wis. Lawmakers Strike Deal on Schools
Houston Chronicle - United States
... intensified in December after an appeals court ordered the state to stop funding the Wisconsin Virtual Academy, the state's largest virtual school. ...
See all stories on this topic

Corporate Partner Supports Students' Online Test Preparation Needs
Web Services Journal - Montvale,NJ,USA
This service was provided by the Michigan Virtual School(TM) (MVS(TM)) through a contract with Xap Corporation's Bridges Transitions Inc. (Bridges), ...
See all stories on this topic

BREAKING: Quakertown eyes virtual-school program for 2008-09
phillyBurbs.com - Philadelphia,PA,USA
As early as next school year, administrators in the Upper Bucks district are hoping to begin offering a program known as Virtual High School, which allows ...
See all stories on this topic

Finally, the Google News Alert for cyber school.

School closing plan sparks legal threats
Uniontown Herald Standard - Uniontown,PA,USA
"I'll put them in Cyber School," she said. Superintendent James Duncan said that he is conferring with the Pennsylvania Department of Education to determine ...
See all stories on this topic

Quakertown to spin Web of learning
phillyBurbs.com - Philadelphia,PA,USA
The district is also considering offering distance learning in Chinese, Arabic and Japanese and developing a cyber school to run alongside the brick and ...
See all stories on this topic

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Friday, February 01, 2008

A News Item

I know that the New York Times puts their articles behind their pay service after a day, so let me add this item here:
Online Schooling Grows, Setting Off a Debate
Published: February 1, 2008

MILWAUKEE — Weekday mornings, three of Tracie Weldie’s children eat breakfast, make beds and trudge off to public school — in their case, downstairs to their basement in a suburb here, where their mother leads them through math and other lessons outlined by an Internet-based charter school.

Half a million American children take classes online, with a significant group, like the Weldies, getting all their schooling from virtual public schools. The rapid growth of these schools has provoked debates in courtrooms and legislatures over money, as the schools compete with local districts for millions in public dollars, and over issues like whether online learning is appropriate for young children.

One of the sharpest debates has concerned the Weldies’ school in Wisconsin, where last week the backers of online education persuaded state lawmakers to keep it and 11 other virtual schools open despite a court ruling against them and the opposition of the teachers union. John Watson, a consultant in Colorado who does an annual survey of education that is based on the Internet, said events in Wisconsin followed the pattern in other states where online schools have proliferated fast.

“Somebody says, ‘What’s going on, does this make sense?’ ” Mr. Watson said. “And after some inquiry most states have said, ‘Yes, we like online learning, but these are such new ways of teaching children that we’ll need to change some regulations and get some more oversight.’ ”

Two models of online schooling predominate. In Florida, Illinois and half a dozen other states, growth has been driven by a state-led, state-financed virtual school that does not give a diploma but offers courses that supplement regular work at a traditional school. Generally, these schools enroll only middle and high school students.

At the Florida Virtual School, the largest Internet public school in the country, more than 50,000 students are taking courses this year. School authorities in Traverse City, Mich., hope to use online courses provided by the Michigan Virtual School next fall to educate several hundred students in their homes, alleviating a classroom shortage.

The other model is a full-time online charter school like the Wisconsin Virtual Academy. About 90,000 children get their education from one of 185 such schools nationwide. They are publicly financed, mostly elementary and middle schools.

Many parents attracted to online charters have previously home-schooled their children, including Mrs. Weldie. Her children — Isabel, Harry and Eleanor, all in elementary school — download assignments and communicate intermittently with their certified teachers over the Internet, but they also read story books, write in workbooks and do arithmetic at a table in their basement. Legally, they are considered public school students, not home-schoolers, because their online schools are taxpayer-financed and subject to federal testing requirements.

Despite enthusiastic support from parents, the schools have met with opposition from some educators, who say elementary students may be too young for Internet learning, and from teachers, unions and school boards, partly because they divert state payments from the online student’s home district.

Other opposition has arisen because many online charters contract with for-profit companies to provide their courses. The Wisconsin academy, for example, is run by the tiny Northern Ozaukee School District, north of Milwaukee, in close partnership with K12 Inc., which works with similar schools in 17 states.

The district receives annual state payments of $6,050 for each of its 800 students, which it uses to pay teachers and buy its online curriculum from K12.

Saying he suspected “corporate profiteering” in online schooling, State Senator John Lehman, a Democrat who is chairman of the education committee, last month proposed cutting the payments to virtual schools to $3,000 per student. But during legislative negotiations that proposal was dropped.

Jeff Kwitowski, a K12 spokesman, said, “We are a vendor and no different from thousands of other companies that provide products and services to districts and schools.”

Pennsylvania has also debated the financing of virtual charter schools. Saying such schools were draining them financially, districts filed suit in 2001, portraying online schools as little more than home schooling at taxpayer expense. The districts lost, but the debate has continued.

Last year, the state auditor found that several online charters had received reimbursements from students’ home districts that surpassed actual education costs by more than $1 million. Now legislators are considering a bill that would in part standardize the payments at about $5,900 per child, said Michael Race, a spokesman for the State Department of Education.

The state auditor in Kansas last year raised a different concern, finding that the superintendent of a tiny prairie district running an online school had in recent years given 130 students, and with them $106,000 in per-pupil payments, to neighboring districts that used the students’ names to pad enrollment counts. The auditor concluded that the superintendent had carried out the subterfuge to compensate the other districts for not opening their own online schools.

“Virtual education is a growing alternative to traditional schooling,” Barbara J. Hinton, the Kansas auditor, said in a report. Ms. Hinton found that virtual education had great potential because students did not have to be physically present in a classroom. “Students can go to school at any time and in any place,” she said.

But, she added, “this also creates certain risks to both the quality of the student’s education and to the integrity of the public school system.”

Rural Americans have been attracted to online schooling because it allows students even on remote ranches to enroll in arcane courses like Chinese.

In Colorado, school districts have lost thousands of students to virtual schools, and, in 2006, a state audit found that one school, run by a rural district, was using four licensed teachers to teach 1,500 students across the state. The legislature responded last year by establishing a new division of the Colorado Department of Education to tighten regulation of online schools.

The Wisconsin Virtual Academy has 20 certified, unionized teachers, and 800 students who communicate with one another over the Internet.

The school has consistently met federal testing requirements, and many parents, including Mrs. Weldie, expressed satisfaction with the K12 curriculum, which allows her children to move through lessons at their own pace, unlike traditional schools, where teachers often pause to take account of slower students. Isabel Weldie, 5, is in kindergarten, “But in math I’m in first grade,” she said during a break in her school day recently.

“That’s what I love most about this curriculum,” Mrs. Weldie said. “There’s no reason for Isabel to practice counting if she can already add.”

In 2004, the teachers’ union filed a lawsuit against the school, challenging the expansive role given to parents, who must spend four to five hours daily leading their children through lesson plans and overseeing their work. Teachers monitor student progress and answer questions in a couple of half-hour telephone conferences per month and in interactive online classes using conferencing software held several times monthly.

A state court dismissed the case, but in December an appeals court said the academy was violating a state law requiring that public school teachers be licensed.

The ruling infuriated parents like Bob Reber, an insurance salesman who lives in Fond du Lac and whose 8-year-old daughter is a student at the academy. “According to this ruling, if I want to teach my daughter to tie her shoes, I’d need a license,” Mr. Reber said.

Not so, said Mary Bell, the union president: “The court did not say that parents cannot teach their children — it said parents cannot teach their children at taxpayers’ expense.”

The Weldies and 1,000 other parents and students from online schools rallied in Madison, the state capital, urging lawmakers to save their schools. Last week, legislators announced that they had agreed on a bipartisan bill that would allow the schools to stay open, while requiring online teachers to keep closely in touch with students and increasing state oversight.

Not sure if the comments go behind the pay service as well, but the discussion of this article can be found at:

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[Innovate] February/March Issue

A couple of items related to online learning and K-12 in this issue of Innovate.
Innovate (www.innovateonline.info) is published bimonthly as a public service by the Fischler School of Education and Human Services at Nova Southeastern University and is sponsored, in part, by Microsoft. The articles in the February/March 2008 issue, guest edited by Cathy Gunn and Susan Patrick, offer a range of studies that contribute to an evidence-based framework to sustain further innovation in online teaching and learning. Innovate-Live webcasts, produced by our partner, ULiveandLearn, allow you to synchronously interact with authors on the topics of their articles.

In the first article of this issue, Susan Lowes focuses on the "trans-classroom" teacher who works in both face-to-face and online classrooms, and attempts to track how such teachers make shifts in ideas, strategies, and practices that constrain or improve their practice in either venue. [See
http://innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=446&action=article ] Her webcast is scheduled for March 26 at 3:00 PM EST.

Rayenne Dekhinet, Keith Topping, David Duran, and Silvia Blanch studied a primary school program that linked English-speaking learners of Spanish with Spanish-speaking learners of English. Their study provides insight on how Internet technology can be leveraged to enhance language learning. [See
http://innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=479&action=article ]. Their webcast is schedule for March 26 at 11:00 AM EST.

Len Annetta, Marta Klesath, and Shawn Holmes describe virtual learning environments and the use of avatars to foster social presence in these environments as they examine how gaming and avatars are engaging online students. [See
http://innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=485&action=article ]. Their webcast is scheduled for February 19 at 1:00 PM EST.

You may register for webcasts at http://www.uliveandlearn.com/PortalInnovate/. Webcasts will be archived and available in the webcast section of the article and in the Innovate-Live portal archive shortly after the webcast. All times are Eastern Standard Time (New York). You may use the world clock at http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/ to coordinate with your time zone.

We hope that you enjoy this issue of Innovate. Please use the discussion board within each article to raise questions or provide additional commentary. Your comments will be sent to authors for their response, which will become part of the record for their article. Also, please forward this announcement to appropriate mailing lists and to colleagues who want to use IT tools to advance their work and ask your organizational librarian to link to Innovate in their resource section for open-access e-journals.

If you are considering submitting a manuscript describing how you use Microsoft technology to enhance the educational experience for publication consideration in the From our Sponsors section, please make sure that it conforms to the publication guidelines described at the Contribute link on Innovate's navigation bar.

Finally, check out the Innovation 2008 conference at http://education-2008.org that Innovate and the Focus on Education Foundation are hosting this coming April 14-15 in beautiful Breckenridge, CO. The early-bird discount for the conference and for the Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center is drawing near. We would love to see you there.


James L Morrison
Editor-in-Chief, Innovate
Fischler School of Education and Human Services
Nova Southeastern University
Obviously I edited Dr. Morrison's message to only include those articles which are germane to this particular blog. So, join in the discussion or attend one of the webcasts.

Tags: open source, online journals, e-journals, academy, , , , ,

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