Monday, November 17, 2008

Virtual High School - continued

Not long after my Virtual High School post I received a tweet (a Twitter message) from the Cool Cat Teacher Vicki Davis pointing to this article from Orlando Sentinel on a new Florida law to expand online education in primary and secondary grades:
The law passed by the Legislature last spring is designed to give parents more choice in how their elementary- and middle-school children are educated full time. Online instruction joins home schooling, charter schools and Florida's on-again, off-again experiment with vouchers to private schools as a way of broadening the selection.

"The beauty of this is it is another choice for parents," said Sonia Esposito, director of school choice for Osceola schools.

The state will pay for online instruction, providing districts about $6,000 per student -- what they would get for a student who showed up at a regular school. But savings are expected in bus transportation, school construction and other areas.
Then today I was outside for my last lawn mowing/Teachers's Podcast listening session of the year - I'm done with lawn mowing not the podcast. Virtual schools were again the topic of discussion in episode #28 (for those of you new to podcasting, you can play the episode from your computer, you don't need an iPod).

They discussed the Florida law which apparently requires schools to offer a full online degree program starting next year. They then dove deep into virtual schools and online education. It's a great discussion and they have posted a number of links for you reading enjoyment. A couple of things I found particularly interesting:
  1. Dr. Kathy talked about online education as a continuum that starts with the use of basic online resources, moves to students using it as part of their studies, then to partially online courses and finally to fully online programs. Starting with the simple stuff is alright, but it's just the beginning.
  2. Dr. Kathy also reinforced the notion that the proper application of technology to the classroom is not simply migrating your existing class content to the web or learning management system (LMS). Teachers will need to adapt their teaching to get the most of the new technology, just as they have had to do in the past (anyone remember filmstrips?).
  3. Dr. Kathy and Mark went on to discuss the hybrid or blended model in which coursework is a mixture of online and on-site. They referenced the VOISE program in Chicago as an example (see this summer 2008 Converge article about the program starting on page 21).
  4. Mark talked about a Converge article he did in 2007 about the Distance Learning program in Alabama. He talked about how the program was used to, among other things, deliver coursework that was not offered on-site because of insufficient demand for certain classes (say Latin or AP Programming). We might consider this the Long Tail of education.
Okay, so last time I said we in the broader community - business, taxpayers, parents, advisory board members - needed to be thinking about this too. I am even more convinced of that now. The implications of these changes seems more profound than merely getting teachers to blog.
  • How will we pay for educators to learn the technology and implement an entirely new way to deliver education? (And don't tell me they can do it as part of their job, that's not how it's done in the business world.)
  • How will funding be effected if students rush to fully or partially online programs and leave school buildings empty? It might be a great solution for a growing district that doesn't have enough space, but what about a district that is shrinking?
  • How will we fund schools if a student is on campus for four classes each day and then takes two more online from another school (funding and football are going to be the biggest roadblocks to educational reform).
  • What changes in teacher education do we need to make in advance of the transition? Are the Colleges of Education in our Universities training new teachers how to build their curriculum around both on-site and online delivery?
Digging up the links for this post I trip over a site, Virtual High School Meanderings, that you might add to your reading list if you are interested in virtual/online education.

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